She's got this crazy idea- exploring the 3 America's solo, for better or for worse...

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Hewby, Sep 10, 2012.

  1. Hewby

    Hewby Been here awhile

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    Turning through the empty potholed dusty streets of the northern Mexican town of Moctezuma, winding around the town square in the Sunday morning heat. Looking for somewhere to have breakfast. Or that little road that turns off the main path to head east of here. The streets empty, bar and old man in a big white hat, sporting a huge mustache, his cane tapping rhythmically on the uneven pavement. He pauses for a moment and looks up at my laden bike, and then slowly moves onwards as I pass down a road that quickly disintegrates into nothing but dust and potholes. I turn the heavy bike around, sweating in my protective gear. Heaving as the bike gets stuck on a rim of a pothole. My feet just touching the ground struggle with the weight of my gear packed for a year, for the heat of the Atacama and the cool of the Andes. I turn and head back into town, looking for some sense of life, the busyness of a street food cart to appease my growling stomach, or a hint of a road that might lead east. I pass the old man again. He has turned and walks towards me again. We pass in silence bar the slow chug of my bike. I turn east at a stop sign. There are no streets signs and I have no map, bar one of the country. But, I gather, if the road is important enough for a stop sign that must mean something. Then the temp warning light comes on. I stop. I feel my own temp warning light switch too. I see some shade and pull the bike in. Coolant is spilling down the left side of the bike over the top of my tool tubes and creating a muddy puddle on the dusty ground. Shit.

    I start taking off the gear strapped to my bike to lift the seat to get at the faring on the left side. I open the coolant overflow and see that it's full. I turn on the bike again and the fan switches on. Blowing hot air over my dusty hand.

    A man comes out of a shop and comes over. He speaks English and asks if I am ok. We look at the bike together and shake our heads. Nothing seems wrong. The bike cools down enough for me to take off the radiator cap. Full. I see no holes or leaks excepting the pool from the overflow valve cap. I am hot and hungry. The man helps me pull my stuff into his house and connect to his wifi. Adv and Skype become my savior. I put out some calls for advice and walk with the man to get some food so I can think straight.

    Carne Asada and flour tortilla are the staples of this region. The meat is rich and filling. The chilies hot. The salads refreshing. The shop owner and the man talk in Spanish about bike mechanics in the town. I eat and ponder. Maybe it's a water pump. I have a spare one in my kit. We discuss the options and head back to the bike. Call on Skype confirm the possible diagnostics. Adv advice starts to roll in. The best mechanic in town is away. I play with the man’s Niece and Nephew. And drink water in the shade of a tree. Is this what motorcycle adventuring all about?


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    Untitled by hewby2, on Flickr

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    Untitled by hewby2, on Flickr

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    IMG_1923 by hewby2, on Flickr

    Ok. So a ride report. The inner adventurer in me struggles. I am not great at documenting. I fall short at maintaining the momentum. My distractibility leads to spelling errors. I never write a diary. My blog is behind, I feel the weight of pressure to post. Times of variable internet frustrate me. But then by reaching out and sharing, the ride is not lonely. The journey is shared. The tough times padded. All you wonderful people out there who reply to my adv threads, often sent in vulnerable moments, have been able to send conforming and calming gems of wisdom back. Making the solo journey on a bike I don't know how to fix not so daunting. And for that I am grateful. And for that, I will post so you to can participate in the ups and not just the downs of my adventure. So if you dare- bear with me and we will ride the America's....
    #1
  2. Hewby

    Hewby Been here awhile

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    Ok some background. So my plan- to travel the Americas on my F650gs, mostly solo over 11 months or so, or to take it as it comes.. So far I have completed the northern section of my route up the inside Passage, around Alaska to Prudohe bay and back down to Seattle as a ‘practice trip’ with my parents in tow. Now as they have flown back to Australia I set off truly solo on my journeys south….
    So if anyone is interested in the build up to this check out my blog at letterstocurlyflat.blogspot.com
    But for those of you that don’t want to….. a quick run down on the me, idea and the preparations.....


    The idea….

    When does a trip begin? How is an idea conceived? From the childhood dream to visit the place of the Inca, inspired by the cartoon ‘The children of the sun.’ Dreaming then that I too might explore these ancient lands and cultures by golden condor. Was it hearing of Dads stories of his motorcycle touring in Europe in the 70’s? Or, was it the inspiration of seeing the movie “Motorcycle diaries” flying home from the UK?
    Was it the amazing solo bicycle trip across Europe. Irritated by encountering numerous sexually aggressive males, and then, furious at the French policeman’s comment after a scary attack on my life, that I ‘should not travel alone as a single female’. I remember thinking; “Screw that idea! As a female I should be able to do whatever I put my mind too! But next time I am going to ride something faster so I can get away more easily.”
    Was it the glorious, pillion motorbike trips through the Hebrides, or through Morocco and Europe- sitting on the back of a Hayabusa, (quite an impractical bike for adventure touring- though we tried, and succeed in part) thinking ‘I have got to get my license, for my independence, and a bike that wants to go on the roads I do…’
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    Untitled by hewby2, on Flickr

    I travelled back to Australia and promptly obtained my bike license. I spent my L plate period riding all over Tassie, and in the Victorian highlands on a little Suszki GN250. Sadly 3 months later I broke my knee, by failing to avoid a dog on the highway quickly enough. Yet despite my accident, and my time working in the trauma unit on the Isle of Man during the TT, this did nothing but strengthen my desire to ride….

    I think of the trips and experiences leading up to this adventure- and the lessons that I have learnt already, and how they in turn shape the adventure to come. I am an experienced solo traveler and love the call of the wild. I have spent many a night in my tent, wandering without seeing another person for days, reveling in the joys of free camping. I love expanding my knowledge and palate by foraging wild food, to extend my self-sufficiency. I love trying to further understand people and cultures, and love the exploration of food. I find my apparent vulnerability enables a more intimate understanding of people, as they are more willing to let me in. Hitchhiking around Iceland or Hawaii, I would find the joys of being readily accepted, and taken in by people, especially the women, delightful. Those that reported they would never feel safe to pick up a hitchhiker, who then felt the urge to open their doors of their cars, their tables and their homes to me. I discovered the wonders of couch surfing, both official and unofficial. And found, when I needed a home or family in my wanderings, I could find them. I am internally grateful for the experiences and the welcome I have received around the world so far.

    But this adventure, this one seems to push the boundaries for me. I know nothing about bikes or mechanics. Whilst growing up on the back of bikes, I am new to riding, and being responsible for my own bike. My father’s attempts to teach me mechanics when I was younger, often lead me to wander off in search of more inspiring occupations, or simply to the kitchen to bake yummies to sustain him. I lack the ability to remain focused on the details. I get bored easily. I lose focus and I move on. And so travel suits me brilliantly. But the bike adds an extra dimension of adventure and freedom. Winding through the hills, the bike seems to dance beneath me. Passing through the forest, the smells become intoxicating. And the ‘Vrrmmm’ of the engine gives me a sense of power, freedom, excitement and connectedness that I have not felt so intensely with other modes of transport.
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    Untitled by hewby2, on Flickr


    And so with the tunes of the australian band 'Those Bloody McKennas' ringing in my ears I prepare to explore a continent that was always on my bucket list…

    “She’s got this crazy idea. Yeah she’s got this crazy idea. She’s going to wake up one day and finally disappear into the life she’s never lived. Something’s gotta give, round here, round here.
    Yeah she’s got this crazy idea, she’s gonna fly away, she’ll fly right out of here. With all the sadness and the madness in this world we need some crazy ideas. But who’s got all the answers anyway. Who’s got all the answers? But who’s got all the answers anyway? But hey its ok…. its ok.”
    Crazy. Crazy.
    Yeah she’s got this crazy idea, and all the strength of all the armies in this world won’t stop this crazy idea….
    She’s got this crazy idea…
    #2
  3. huzar

    huzar Pastor of Muppets

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    :lurk
    #3
  4. Hewby

    Hewby Been here awhile

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    The preparation
    Finally moving onto Canada I made preparations for buying my bike. This lead to my first official contact with the online motorcycle community through the Horizons unlimited website. It was here I made contact with the delightful and extraordinarily helpful and encouraging Sara and Dan, who are preparing for a RTW trip on BMW’s (www.worldwideride.ca). After a few brief emails with Sara expressing my concern about my height (or lack of it), and my ideal motorbike choice (the BMW 650), I went to try her bike on for size. I found while wearing her two inch healed boots from Daytona, on her lowered BMW F650GS twin, I had my feet flat on the ground. Brilliant! So I promptly went out and bought the shoes, and a second hand (not lowered) BWM F650GS 2004 single and spent the next year trying to get used to the height. Shaking my head at my stupidity I went hand got a custom lowered seat made by Rick on the Olympic peninsula, and later I bit the bullet, and put in a 1 in’ suspension lowering link. Sara and Dan continued to supplement my poor planning and research abilities, and have become wonderful friends who have helped immensely in the preparation of this trip, with much needed advice, encouragement and friendship.
    A wonderful friend of a friend, Clifford from Scotland, came to stay on my couch while he was travelling in Canada. My bike out the front turned the conversation to bikes. We discovered our commonalties; he had ridden the Pan American in 2002, with Geoff Clark. He had also been a TT racer, and winner ‘back in the good old days’ and my time on the Isle of Man was another link. He introduced me to the stories of the road, through the work of Ted Simons. Inspirational.
    The horizons meet up in Nukesp in August was an awesome reinforcement that this trip was not simply a crazy idea, but a perfect idea. It was brilliant to meet other solo women adventurers, and talk with people who knew more about bikes than me -which was pretty much all of them ;) The 10 hour bike ride home, that had me simply buzzing with excitement, confirming that motorcycling was the right choice for me.

    Over the year, meeting the wonderful Marcin/ 'Huzar' further introduced me to the world of the online motorbike communities. Our bike trip from Seattle to California reinforced the joys of this. Taken out to explore the taco trucks, by fellow Adv member ‘No miles,’ and treated to a lovely Easter dinner and night of hosting by the wonderful ‘Mista Vern’ and his wife, confirmed that ‘Yes things would be alright’ on this trip. The world is full of wonderful people.
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    Untitled by hewby2, on Flickr
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    Untitled by hewby2, on Flickr

    The whole way down to California I had been cursing how hard it had been to take photos while riding, having to stop, then take off gloves, when really during these moments of beauty, all you want to do is ride and enjoy it. After seeing my cousin arrive in Oakland, after winning his 8th leg of the Clipper Yacht Race around the world, Rich put me onto the lovely Hunter Clark from GoPro who gave me a better way to document my adventures, a GoPRo hero. So I have been enjoying being able to take shots while on the go and in the rain, and am working out my mounting system to make the most of the fish eye lens.
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    Untitled by hewby2, on Flickr

    The riding through the snowy passes and the crazy rain however convinced me that my old gear would have to be replaced and improved –so I purchased a Gerbing heated jacket and gloves, a Revit venture suit, and a new Nolan helmet… It was easier to buy whilst I was still working, rather than later when money equals time on the road.… I am still not sure how long I plan to be out there…. 11 months? Two years? I flip back and forth as life’s responsibilities present themselves, and the possibilities of the trip expand and contract like a males excited appendage facing icy water. Ah the fickle nature of my mind. So in that my only plan of the trip is to head North to Prudhoe Bay, until l can head north no more, then South along the spine of the Americas until I can head South no more. Except maybe by boat to Antarctica… which would be nice. But then, anything can happen. So basically trying to plan not to plan, and to simply take it as it comes, as much as visa’s and finance allows…
    #4
  5. ThumperStorm

    ThumperStorm Long timer

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    It is refreshing to see someone who is so optimistic about the goodness of people.:clap I admire your self-confidence and bravery in traveling by yourself.:thumb I am looking forward to reading how your adventure turns out.:lurk
    #5
  6. Hewby

    Hewby Been here awhile

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    Thanks Thumpersrorm, I have discovered through my travels, work and life that all people have some good in them. Even those who have committed heinous crimes, and believe me I know these people too. Appealing to the goodness rather than the bad seems the only way I know to bring more positive interactions. If we expect bad, most likely that too is what we will get. And yes, while traveling alone sometimes can be tough, the benefits often outweigh the costs. And it means that you go instead of waiting forever for someone to come with you. So here I am. Let's see what comes next....
    #6
  7. bisbonian

    bisbonian Long timer

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    Subscribed!
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  8. Oldone

    Oldone One day at a time!

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  9. Trey650

    Trey650 Are We There Yet?

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  10. noshoes

    noshoes soñando con México

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  11. ThumperStorm

    ThumperStorm Long timer

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    I like the new pictures.
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  12. Paddygfw

    Paddygfw Adventurer

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    What a great way to look at life...Looking forward to your RR.....have a great trip
    Paddy
    #12
  13. skibum69

    skibum69 slave to gravity

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    Looks like a great trip! If you wander back to Canada I'm on the tent thread in Newfoundland. Safe travels:thumb
    #13
  14. Tar snakes

    Tar snakes Been here awhile

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    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog. Your writing style really speaks to me. Honestly, I far prefer reading stuff like this than road tests in motorcycle magazines.

    Ride safe.

    Cheers Jules.
    #14
  15. Hewby

    Hewby Been here awhile

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    The ‘practice trip’ with me on the bike and my parents in a the chase car, covered over 15,000km taking 6 weeks, up Vancouver Island and the inside passage of BC to Prince Rupert, out to Haida Gawaii and then back on the ferry up to Haines Alaska. From there, an inland route from Haines junction to Tok to the fantastic motorbike park run by Vanessa, then down to Anchorage and onto the amazing road to Seward. Denali was covered in clouds and passing rain so I headed solo for the sun over Prudhoe Bay. The road was in fabulous conditions, and a simply stunning ride to the end of the earth.
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    Wohoo! by hewby2, on Flickr
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    The End of the road, Deadhorse, Alaska by hewby2, on Flickr

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    The 1.30am crash, while looking for camp, The Dalton Highway by hewby2, on Flickr

    The bike was holding up well, apart from the chain tension plate that ripped off, as did its replacement part, leaving me tensioning by bashing the chain with a block of wood!
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    Second broken chain tension plate by hewby2, on Flickr

    On the way south we passed by Tok again, and then over to Dawson city via the magic top of the world highway.[​IMG]
    Top of the world Highway, The Yukon by hewby2, on Flickr

    Down through Whitehorse and along the Cassier highway to the beautiful Stewart and Hyder to visit the amazing Salmon glacier. [​IMG]
    Salmon Glacier, Hyder by hewby2, on Flickr


    Heading towards the Canadian Rockies almost the first real rain of the trip set in. As I had traveled through here a year before, I decided again to split from my parents and make the 1100km dash back to Seattle to surprise Marcin for his birthday. After a delightful catch up and trip to Montana and Lolo pass, [​IMG]
    Lolo pass, Idaho by hewby2, on Flickr

    I rejoined my parents in Glacier national park and rode the spectacular Going to the sun road.
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    Going to the sun road, Glacier National Park by hewby2, on Flickr

    This was the last of their tour and we headed back to Seattle where they caught the plane back to Australia. I sold the support car and prepared the bike to set off alone down through the USA and into Central and South America.

    For more Photos use; http://www.flickr.com/photos/79973473@N06/sets/72157631520965934/
    #15
  16. Hewby

    Hewby Been here awhile

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    The trip through the USA became a tour of the national parks, free camping, and exploring the amazing landscapes of this incredible country. From Seattle back to Montana, over Mt Rainer, Lolo pass and down to the Gravely Range.

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    Camping at Ruby Dam at the base of the Gravelly Range, Montana by hewby2, on Flickr
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    The View from the Tent at Sunrise, Ruby Dam, Montana by hewby2, on Flickr
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    The Gravelly Range, Montana by hewby2, on Flickr

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    'Down she goes', Gravelly Range, Montana by hewby2, on Flickr
    Yellowstone and through the Grand Tetons.

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    Stuck in a Bison Jam, just before they charged! by hewby2, on Flickr

    With a detour up to the best motorcycle road ever- Beartooth Pass

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    The Beartooth pass, Wyoming by hewby2, on Flickr

    Then meeting up with friends in Moab and Aches national park.

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    Mesa Arch Sunrise, Utah by hewby2, on Flickr
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    Untitled by hewby2, on Flickr

    Taking some more spills after following Dan into some off roads above my skill level the bike took some cosmetic beating.

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    Fixing the broken chain guard/mudflap. by hewby2, on Flickr
    Playing in the dirt, Canyonlands National Park by hewby2, on Flickr

    We ended up touring together for a week as I headed south through Capitol reef, Bryce canyon, the beautiful Zion national Park and and Grand Canyon as my USA visa was coming to an end.

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    Zion National Park by hewby2, on Flickr
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    Zion National Park by hewby2, on Flickr
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    Hwy 287, near Moab Utah by hewby2, on Flickr
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    North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona by hewby2, on Flickr

    I said gooodbye to my friends and headed down to Tucson towards the border
    #16
  17. Hewby

    Hewby Been here awhile

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    Mexico is where the adventure seems real. I had stopped travelling with friends and I was alone. But I found that I was stalling again. The stories told to me of Mexico being unsafe started to play in my head. People saying ‘just make sure you cross the border in the morning and ride straight through. Get as far away from the north as possible’. My visa for the USA was expiring and I no longer felt the option of bombing back to Seattle to Marcin. I arrived at the border town of Douglas Arizona, late and in the rain. My bike had just had a major service at Ironhorse BMW, Tucson after limping in over 500miles from the north rim of the Grand Canyon through the mountains with an electrical issue that had knocked out my break lights, indicators, speedo, and odometer. The back tire was getting thin, and the bike was well due for some love. I hoped that this would be almost the last of my bike problems (we can all dream).

    I pulled into my first hotel alone for the trip. I was cold and feeling a little vulnerable. I was not sure on my route through Mexico and was changing my plans hourly. Packing up my gear for an early morning get out, I checked my passport and visa. Almost choking I discovered that I had to leave the USA, not on the 9th September, three months after my entry to Alaska, but instead 9/7/12, 90 days after my last entry. I looked up the penalty for overstaying a day on the US visa. My visa waiver rights revoked, and having to return to my home country before ever getting a US visa again, then interviews and ongoing visa hassles. Panic boiled up and started to overflow. I told myself there was no way I could cross to Mexico at 11.30pm at night in the rain. I struggle riding at night at the best of times. And into a Mexican border town where stories of drug wars and murders were rampant. All of my nonchalance about Mexico faded. All of the hype and the fear that others had cast my way- seeped into the cracks and I felt I was going to hyperventilate. My last Skype with Marcin as I packed my bike up, was in tears. I needed to enter the US again. I wanted nothing to jeopardize my entry back into the country to see the man I love. But to risk death?!! Ok, maybe I was totally over the top. But at that point, I couldn’t think straight. He sent me directions for a hotel in Agua Prieta. The ride to the border was one of the worst in my life. As I hit the gates I searched for a US guard. I pulled to the side in tears and begged them to not make me have to cross. After a few minutes choking on my words the guards took my passport and came back stating I should be ok to go back to my hotel, and cross in the morning. That ‘one day over was not a big deal’. I turned around and went back to the hotel. I felt like I had been through an emotional industrial washing machine, my body tired, beaten and wrung out. I fell into bed exhausted.

    The next morning I was once again slow off the mark. I double checked my paperwork. I double checked border crossing details. This was nothing like I had done before. Walking over borders is easy, but importing a vehicle. On my previous trip to Morocco, I had minded the bike, and had no clue about the import paperwork. This time it was all up to me.
    I had been warned to bring pesos into Mexico and not to get money on the Mexican side of border from an ATM, as I might open myself up to being taken out 5km down the road. But after an hour and a half of following leads that led nowhere, I decided to cross without Pesos. I could get them further down the road.

    I followed the road to the border again stopping to speak to the US guards, reiterating in more fluent English, my predicament of the night before. They nodded in sympathy and took my green expired visa for processing and told me not to worry about it. I moved onto the Mexican side. My poor Spanish skills resulted in a 30 day transit visa. On discovery of this I went back and managed after much cajoling to talk my way into a 6 month visa for both me and the bike. The whole process was relatively painless, though taking over two hours.

    Leaving the border the craziness of the roads hit me. My mind was overloaded with info. Looking down at the potholes. Looking up at the signs and the cars coming from every direction. Cursing my broken Ram mount and my iphone gps stuck inside my tank bag. The streets seemed to be one way, though I must have missed the signs. Cars took up all the lanes and turned haphazardly. I joined in the confusion. Looking for highway 17, one of the smaller road south, I pulled people over to ask directions. I went round in circles. I hit dead ends, and roads that faded into goat tracks. So much for bombing straight through the border town to get out of here! After an hour, and more than 4 stilted but lovely conversations with locals I finally found road 17 to head out of town. My fear of this town from the night before seemed to dissipate.

    Then I started to smile. The compounded tension of the last 24 hours started to release itself, and excitement set in. I was no longer on a backyard trip in a western country. I was in Mexico! The trip that I had dreamed of had actually begun.
    #17
  18. Hewby

    Hewby Been here awhile

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    Traveling down through Sonora was beautiful. Small roads wound through the valley with the hills on each side. At times the road was almost washed away, sand and rocks showed evidence of dry riverbeds making their home in dips in the highway. Huge birds circled the skies. The desert was green. The people smiled. The small towns I stopped at were friendly. Preparing for the Independence Day Fiesta, banners were being hung, cakes being made and streets fairs set up. I stopped to get myself a Mexican sim and some Pesos, struggling with my still poor Spanish. Different people sent me to different stores until I could find what I wanted. People stopped me in the street to comment on the bike. To see if I had found what I was looking for. To offer help. It was an amazing sense of community. When I told them of my plans they almost fell over. “Muy valiente…” they repeated. But I don’t feel brave. At times I don’t feel the need to feel brave, as there seems nothing to feel brave about. The people seem amazing, and I feel welcomed and respected, much more so than my time in Morocco. Yes, I appreciate my freedom, and feel so lucky for my heritage. But as a Gringo here I feel safe. If I was Mexican and living in a border town, this might be different. But traveling here in Senora, listening to the people, I think everything is going to be ok. The police blocks seem friendly; they see my papers and wave me through with a smile. I feel I could stop and stay in many of the towns, but I continue on to Montezuma before the setting sun.
    #18
  19. huzar

    huzar Pastor of Muppets

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    Muy valiente :thumb
    #19
  20. skibum69

    skibum69 slave to gravity

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    Ditto
    #20