In the name of science: USA-Nicaragua-USA

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by flatmo, Jun 29, 2010.

  1. flatmo

    flatmo Americano

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    573
    Location:
    Lushoto, Tanzania
    I’ll be leaving Lincoln, NE next Monday on a trip that will take me exploring different places in Central America. The purpose of this journey is to document the biology of several species of beetles I’m studying, some of them being still unknown to science. The plan is to stop in key locations in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. I will make my observations on the way south and ride straight on my way back.

    Five weeks and a fixed budget are my limiting resources.
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    #1
  2. DirtFarmer

    DirtFarmer Has anyone seen my mother

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Kansas
    You have been seen back in the states, get typing. :lol3

    Nice to meet you and wash your Strom.

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    #2
  3. abqcookie

    abqcookie Serow Siren

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
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    1,722
    Location:
    New Mexico
    from one student to another, I'm looking forward to hearing about it.
    #3
  4. flatmo

    flatmo Americano

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    573
    Location:
    Lushoto, Tanzania
    Day 1
    I woke up with a headache, is never a good sleep when there is something exciting happening next day. The morning was cloudy with fog all over the highway, rain was just a matter of time. As I got closer to Kansas it started to rain softly. I love riding in the rain. Inside my helmet I was repeating my favorite lines from my favorite books and laughing at my own luck. See, I got this such-a-big-deal award that gave me total financial independence in my last year of studies. Plain and simple: someone else is paying for this trip no strings attached :evil

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    I stopped in Great Bend, KS to have lunch. The thing when you're happy is that you become sloppy: I forgot to close my jacket's vents and was soaked. I was shaking inside the restaurant, cold, really cold. The rainy season in Central America is in its highest point, the forests are full of life and my beetles are flying around. If there's no rain the beetles can't break the soil chamber were they are. When still a larvae, they build a case in the ground made of mixed soil and saliva were the miracle of metamorphosis will happen. After about a mount a no-so-good-looking grub becomes a beautifully beetle. I'm after those beetles, I'm a beetle hunter.
    After a bad meal I was again on the road. I had to stop and buy sweatpants and a sweatshirt since the only things I packed for my trip were a pair of trousers, two shorts, and a shirt. Most of the space in my bags was taken by the traps and books.

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    I was on the same road I was in last year when I went with Paola (wife) to Arizona. People complain about highways being boring but I like them. When all you have around when growing up are twisties a straight road is something cool.
    Kansas felt long. Naturally, as soon as I got my new clothes on it started to warm up. At around 4PM I was bored of the landscape and my knee and shoulder started to bother me.

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    A New Mexico sign I was crying to see. Finally, 95 more miles. At round six I arrived to my destination for the day: Tucumcari, NM. Tomorrow I should be in Sierra Vista, AZ and stay with my friend Pat for one night.
    #4
  5. sandalscout

    sandalscout blah blah blah

    Joined:
    May 31, 2010
    Oddometer:
    2,319
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    Sweet, keep it coming! Subscribed to this one months ago, glad to see it again.
    #5
  6. steingar

    steingar higher life form

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2010
    Oddometer:
    471
    Location:
    Midgard
    You lucky bastige. I hate your pharging guts.
    #6
  7. flatmo

    flatmo Americano

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    573
    Location:
    Lushoto, Tanzania
    Day 2.
    A miserably hot day. The landscape was very homogeneous through the entire day. This is a very interesting area with a lot of endemic species (unique to the area). Organisms (plants and animals) found in Texas and through the East Coast frequently stop occurring right here and are replaced by different species. One species of scarab living with pack rats and thought to be distributed from Texas to Arizona is in fact two completely different species. They look very similar to the naked eye (small and black) but are drastically different under the microscope. I still haven't decided how I'm gonna name the new one...

    (Hard to make this report only about the ride!! Be patient with me :D)

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    My knee and my right trapezius are killing me. The knee problem is an old injury back from when I was into every manly sport. The trapezius thing is completely new. The only explanation for this new pain is the 2'' risers I installed before the trip. Bummer. The pain is sharp and it gets worse as I elevate the shoulder, bad presage for the trip.

    When I got to Sierra Vista I was exhausted, but after spending sometime looking at Pat's collection I was recharged!

    Two of the species from Pat's collection I hope to capture. The first known only from Guerrero (possibly new) the other one found from Sinaloa all through the Pacific coast to Guatemala (known):

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    The plan was to cross through Douglas-Sierra Prieta tomorrow. Pat mentioned Naco being closer and called to check if they would let a Colombian cross through there. :lol3 Naco it is now!
    #7
  8. on2wheels52

    on2wheels52 Long timer

    Joined:
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    2,806
    Location:
    northern Arkansas
    I wonder if this is the first time the word 'trapezium' has been used on this forum.
    JIm
    #8
  9. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    61,132
    It's as good a reason as any to go on a long adventurous ride :thumb
    #9
  10. Misery Goat

    Misery Goat Positating the negative Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2003
    Oddometer:
    98,882
    Location:
    Valle del Sol AZ
    Taxco is worth a stop if you're going to be in the mountains in Guerrero.
    #10
  11. flatmo

    flatmo Americano

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    573
    Location:
    Lushoto, Tanzania
    Fixed :lol3
    #11
  12. Rockin Rollin

    Rockin Rollin Rockin Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    689
    Location:
    Earth
    :lurk
    #12
  13. flatmo

    flatmo Americano

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    573
    Location:
    Lushoto, Tanzania
    Day 3.

    I got up when the sensation of needing more sleep. My new helmet is very noisy and is not helping with my tinnitus. Crossing into Mexico took 5 minutes. I went through the US side without being stopped and gave them my I-94. The Mexican side was empty at 7AM and nobody or nothing stopped me. I stopped anyway and a security looking man approached me. He checked my bags and directed me to the immigration office. The immigration officers were sleeping when I got in. They were a bit confused to see my Mexican Visa (Colombian passport) but stamped my passport anyway. Bike immigration, I was told, was done in Cananea, a town at about an hour from Naco. As I got out of the immigration office I noticed my tank bag dripping water, great. All important stuff, including camera and computer got wet. I should've known this was not a thing for me, a respectable brown man doesn't stick a tube in his mouth and suck through it.

    After asking someone at a gas station in Canenea were the Banjercito was I arrived to the little office. The office was next to a kindergarten and was still closed. Kids were playing and the air of the morning was deliciously warm. Inside the office after several calls and looks of confusion the lady said I had to go back to Naco and get your tarjeta de turista, no importation permit can be given without one. Alright, I was officially in Latin America again! go here, go there, make a copy, come back tomorrow I know em' all. During the entire process she looked very confused, calling Agua Prieta to make sure she was doing the right thing. I should've crossed there.

    Back in Naco I was received by a new group of people at immigration. "Lines" was looked like the man in charge. Lines was about 52 and had a head the size of the room. His face was crossed by thick, deep lines, and he had the look of someone that is eternally pissed and confused. Great. I explained the situation to him and judging by his face it was like if I speaking in a different language. Every couple of words I said he interrupted with an angry "QUÉ?!". He took my passport and looked at EVERY single page and every single stamp. Looking for what I still don't know, curiosity I guess. He had this attitude that he was making me a favor. Someone from a room inside, a gringo looking man, ask me to come in by moving his index. I explained the situation to him again: Colombian need visas to enter Mexico, no tarjeta de turista is required with a visa. More looks of confusion. I will be damned. I was asked to wait outside while the had a little meeting to think. Hard thinking and calls to Agua Prieta occurred. The finger again. You gotta pay this bla bla bla... Back to lines. Now this man was filing that little form that is the tarjeta de turismo like if it was his first time making sure the shape of every letter was right and reading all the instructions. I was loving it. After paying the $260 pesos in the bank I was again on my way to Canenea.

    "You need a letter from the university staying you are in vacations" said the lady in Banjercito. Never heard of such a thing. I guess I could be a school fugitive. Face of I-don't-give a-damn from the lady. Luckily I had a letter in English from the University related to the trip and that was enough. The letter she did not read, the letter was about something completely different, but the letter she took. The permit was $35 dollars.

    (Before leaving my advisor gave me a letter stating the purpose of the trip. He put a golden star at the end saying it will make it look official to people looking at it. That's how we lost our last some centuries ago, apparently still works)

    Imuris was at about one hour, or at least that's what I was told. The road is full of curves and traffic. After trying the famous carne asada of Sonora I was on my way to Hermosillo. The goal was to get to Álamos but with the delay at the border it wasn't gonna happen. I kept pushing through my shoulder pain until I got to Guaymas, 3 hours away from Álamos, 3 hours that lines and others took away from me.

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    I found a hotel for $250 pesos and went looking for food. There was a Zumba class going on right in the zócalo. It felt amazing to be surrounded by people again, this place was alive.

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    I tried some tostadas for dinner with couple of different aguas frescas. Tasty stuff.

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    I was in northern Mexico.

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    #13
  14. ruedaloca

    ruedaloca just me

    Joined:
    May 23, 2008
    Oddometer:
    446
    Location:
    That little country at Central America
    Good places to find those strange bugs... You can find many of them.
    I like to see them and i'd like to know more about them, but I'm not a biology man, and that science area doesn't have the best development over these regions.

    Excellent idea to enjoy a motorcycle ride with your insterest or job, perhaps.

    Enjoy !!:thumb

    Any help you need, you're welcome !.:beer
    #14
  15. flatmo

    flatmo Americano

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    573
    Location:
    Lushoto, Tanzania
    Gracias Daniel,
    I finished this trip in September of last year. El Salvador was a pearl in my trip and I did not even get many beetles :lol3

    Hmm, pupusas....


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    #15
  16. fifthcircle

    fifthcircle Beer Knurd

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2005
    Oddometer:
    5,832
    Location:
    Knee deep in diapers, Nebraska.
    I am confused....didn't this trip take a LOT longer than 3 days? :evil
    #16
  17. flatmo

    flatmo Americano

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    573
    Location:
    Lushoto, Tanzania
    I'm sorry for not updating this report in a long time. I'll try to finish it this week.

    The night in Guaymas was quite good. The guy in the front desk was, according to him, a body builder and had some weights in his office. Latin man style we challenged each other and fooled around for a while eating some chinese food he ordered. I was scared to leave the bike out so he offered me store in his garage. In the garage I covered the bike with some cardboard so people won't see it from the street. Probably completely unnecessary.

    The whole purpose of my trip, other than seeing this amazing part of the world, was to collect some specimens of a couple of new species I discovered. All the specimens I got came from old collecting events and there is not good DNA in the bugs for a genetic analysis. With that in mind I left Guaymas for Alamos. Alamos is a touristic place where many entomologists from the USA spend their vacations with their family while collecting. Because of this, one of the new species I discovered came from here.

    On the way to Alamos, on Vicam, right on the road, I found what became one of my favorite foods of the trip: Birria. I had no idea what it was when I ordered it. Birria is a soup made with beef and lots of spices and served with vegetables (edit: according to Wikipedia is not a soup but a meat stew. Still a soup to me). Simple and tasty. I love soups. There were two kids "watching" my bike while I had my breakfast that did not want their picture taken siting on the bike. I thought it was strange.


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    I kept going with my happy belly. Things changed when entering Ciudad Obregon a pick up truck pulled over in front of me and send me kissing Mexico bendito. I was going fast on the left lane and saw the truck ahead trying to merge from the left. I have the right of way, I thought, and keep going only to see the truck milimeters from me. I stopped as hard as I could and in the last second when I thought I was going to hit the back of the truck for sure I twisted the handlebars in an avoiding collision maneuver. It worked, but the asphalt was waiting for me. It was a low speed drop and the bike only got scratched with some minor things broken. My right foot got trapped under the bike destroying my caterpillars boot. A lady in the car behind me came screaming "Are you OK?" in perfect English (Nebraska plates). A couple of guys from a bus helped me lifting the bike and moving it to the side of the road. Another lady offered to call an ambulance (all in English as I was responding in this language). The right pannier came loose but nothing major occurred other than a hot to my mood. "Right of way" damned it I'm still thinking I'm in the states. Oh yes, the truck did not even stop.

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    Just like that one

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    Arriving to Alamos with right boot now with a big vent and behaving like a sandal I looked for a cheap hotel for along time. Alamos is very touristic offering to visitors the Museo de Sonara and La Casa de Maria Felix among other things. Finding a cheap hotel proved to be impossible. I settled for a room with no windows in a hotel in the entrance of the town. It seems like it has not rained for quite so time, no good. There is not much to in Alamos, it's noisy and the people does not seem to enjoy visitors. As I grew up surrounded by these colonial towns they just don't do it for me as for other people. I just need to collect one beetle and I'm out of here.

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    Dark hallway in my hotel.

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    WTF thread candidate

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    Dry. Not good.

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    "Cocina economica" sounds like my kind of place to eat

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    Plaza for Pedro and Ricardo

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    Plaza for Peter and Richard

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    Where you going abuela?

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    I set my traps along this road

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    The soda bottle is the trap. Hi-tec stuff

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    I'm missing my coffee.
    #17
  18. flatmo

    flatmo Americano

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    573
    Location:
    Lushoto, Tanzania
    Nothing in the traps, good bye Alamos. That's the way it goes with collecting, sometimes you get nada. There's still a lot of places to trap and even if I get extremely unlucky and don't get much in the traps I would still be getting data from the museums I'm visiting along the way. That and the trip.

    Next place to collect is "Loberas" a small town in the Espinazo del Diablo a famous twisty road in Mexico. Mazatlan looks like a good place to stay while the traps do their thing. The road to Mazatlan is beautiful, with the sierra to left and the sea to the right. I keep riding the cuota without paying.

    See, In Sonora one of the ladies in the toll booth was telling me something when I was trying to pay but I could not hear her because of the helmet. "Siguele, siguele" was what she was saying (keep on going fool!). Next time, she explained, go around and don't pay. I can do that. Since then I haven't been paying. It's fun. The toll goes anywhere between 2-10 USD and it sums ups pretty quickly. I have "avoided" about 6 until know. Some of then smile at me, some other yell "HEY, HEY!". It's fun. It was fun until I ran out of gas. The nice thing about paying (I learned later) is that with paying the toll you are acquiring an insurance that is valid until the next toll. If you get into an accident you don't have to pay for the ambulance or the tow truck. You can also call free from phone booths along the way in case you need something like a mechanic or gas. I needed gas and did not have the receipt so they made me pay. At least I learned something.

    Arriving in Mazatlan I asked a by-passer for a cheap hotel (still did not know the meaning of "hotel" in Mexican Spanish, more later) and was send to the Malecon. The cheapest thing I found was pretty nice and just a block from the beach. I was paying about the same price I paid in Alamos for a place 100 times better.

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    Hell, my apartment does not look this nice!

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    Went for a short ride and did some people watching. After living for what feels like a long time time in several small towns in the midwest seeing people and a bit of chaos feels amazing.

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    I was not trying the get the hot chick in the frame. I swear

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    Cowboy of the sea

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    My hotel was in the back of that last tall one

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    Lucky fool

    The next day I left early on my way to Loberas via El espanizo del diablo. First some tacos for breakfast; tasty stuff but I miss my coffee. The way to Loberas goes from sea level to 2000m and the habitat changes from dry forest to pine-oak forest. Once you start going up there are curves everywhere with forest at each side. Throw some mules on the road and semi trucks invading your lane and you're in for a treat.

    I set some traps in the dry forest right before one starts climbing the road. Finding Loberas later was not so easy. I got these names from old collecting labels associated to the specimens I need to get. Unfortunately, many insect collectors don't use a GPS and only record the closest town to where they got the bug. Others record something like "4km N of XX" and you end up asking yourself if that is 4km from the center or the border of the town and if from the border where was the border at the time. Satellite pictures don't help much either.

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    Tropical dry forest. Mangoes seller office

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    Right before the curves start and the habitat changes

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    Tropical fool

    Loberas was not a town, it was a couple of houses next to a store. I went looking fro places around where to put my traps and found a little dirt road going down into the forest. It was high altitude, cold and foggy. I rode a couple of kilometers on a bad road until I found a place that looked good fro the traps. Parked the bike and went hiking setting the traps. Going back to the main road was not that easy and I dropped the bike. When trying to lift it the cops showed up. Did not offer help or anything, just wanted me to get the hell out of there as it was "muy peligroso". I asked what do you mean by that, as being Colombian I know that can mean a lot of things, and they said it was very lonely and full of bad guys with arms. Ah, just that!? Iamoutofhere.

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    So, my bugs live in here? Weird.

    On the way down I did not take any pictures. The guy that sells mangoes, next to where I put the first traps confirmed the cops version: "MUY peligroso". Shit, and I have to get back there to collect my traps...
    #18
  19. flatmo

    flatmo Americano

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    573
    Location:
    Lushoto, Tanzania
    Breakfast in the same place, Concordia, before checking the traps. Checking the newspaper did not help making my fears disappear: LOTS of nasty violence around these areas.

    I made my way up to Loberas again enjoying the wonderful twisty roads. Once I got to the place I collected the traps as quick as I could and returned to the bike. I forgot one. Run again into the forest hoping my bike stays in the place where I left it and I don't have to play the "I don't have anything of value" game of someone. I hanged the traps in the mirrors and got the hell out of that scary place. When I was far enough and my heart stopped beating like if I was running I checked the traps: nothing.

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    Field vehicle

    On the way back, calmer not depressed, I took some pictures of the road, the forest, and the vast deforestation caused by the new road being built. The new road will make possible a faster commute avoiding the curves. It might be finished by now (the road), who knows. The forest is not gonna last long.

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    The traps down in the dry forest where packed with bugs, some, being of great interest to me but none of the ones I'm looking for. There were a couple of species of Cetonines (the group I study) plus some Cerambycidae (longhorned beetles) and some cockroaches.

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    At least I can show now I was actually working

    Around 1:00 PM I was on my way to Tepic, Nayarit another collecting spot. I took the libre this time, afraid I might run empty on gas again and have to pay for my lack of attention. In Tepic I was looking for a cheap hotel for about 1 hour with no luck when it started raining like I like it. The cheapest hotel in Tepic wanted $910 pesos, and this, added to the rain and the lack of bugs was making me unhappy.

    I don't remember how but someone directed me to a "love hotel". $220 pesos for the night was not bad. The only problem is that you don't get a key for the room to lock your stuff while looking for some essential things like food or beetles. I risked it and left everything in the bike and went looking for my beans.

    The TV has six channels, 4 of which are pornos. The other two are worse. The the sound of "Big Band Theory" in Mexican Spanish I ate.

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    It's still raining and there is no electricity. Now I'm starting to feel better.


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    #19
  20. flatmo

    flatmo Americano

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    573
    Location:
    Lushoto, Tanzania
    Bye bye Tepic. I could not find any forest whatsoever around the town looking good. Next stop is Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes. Two tiny females of a new species where collected there. In addition of having DNA of the species it would be nice to collect some more specimens hoping I get a male. Some of the females in the group of beetles I study all look the same and you need a male to be sure what species they belong to. Males of different species even if superficially identical have a very different pecker. Apart from the ecological isolation where organisms of different species don't copulate because of living in different habitats, producing different pheromones, or not being active at the same time of the year many insects have this lock and key mechanism where the male can't just make it fit. This new species from Aguacalientes I'm sure it's new, but it would be nice to be able to confirm it by looking at the male's pecker.

    In the next pictures the male is to the left and the female to the right. In the upper right is a detail of the head of the male and in the lower right the pecker. Three different species.

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    Before entering Jalisco I decided to try the famous ceviche in Nayarit. Not good. Still I had to get my money back so I ate it all.
    Crossing Guadalajara proved to be a challenge. I spend around 2 hours trying to find the carretera going north with no luck. I did not ask for directions, I don't need any help to get lost.

    My grandma always talks about the Plaza Garibaldi, a place in Guadalajara where, according to her, you can find several good Mariachi bands. My grandma loves soap operas and Mexico produces a lot of them. Mexico is like the Hollywood of soap operas of Latin America; Colombia is second.

    Finally on my way out of Guadalajara I found a nice patch of forest but could not stop. The weather is less hot than the previous days but the amount of deforestation in general is about the same. I keep riding the cuota with the same results: some smiles, some unhappy yelling.

    In Aguascalientes I learned that asking for a hotel in Mexico you usually mean a nice place to stay. They hold the word hotel in high regard. Motel or casa de huespedes or pension are much more adequate for the kind of stuff I was looking for (in Colombian Spanish a motel is a love hotel and the rest we just don't use them). Even better, you can get a cheap, nasty place if you ask for "hoteles de cien pesos" or hundred pesos hotels. I got one of those, and yet nasty, I could not stop feeling good for paying so little.

    I found a juice bar close to the hotel and got a liter of guanabana (soursop) juice made in milk. Delicious. If only I would've thought about that for a second. The ceviche in my stomach did not receive the juice very well and I almost could not make back to the hotel clean. Damn it, I did not even enjoy the ceviche. The juice was worth it. I went to bed and woke up at 10PM feeling hungry. I went looking for some soup to relieve me from my indigestion and tried the pozole. It did not work. It made it worse. I did not leave the white room until about 4AM. I'm destroyed. My neck and my right shoulder are killing me and now I can hold anything in my stomach. No bugs does not help either.
    I think I might have to call it and go back home. Maybe that guanabana juice was not worth it after all.
    #20