Temples, Tires and Tyrants: 75 days to C.A. and back.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by drifter dave, Jan 23, 2010.

  1. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Well it all began back around 1997. My friend Carl found a diving operation in a place called Belize. It was for sale for 30k US. Where the hell is Belize? I was intrigued. We never bought the dive shop (I was 21 and barely had money for gas), but it did kick off a long-term fascination with the country.

    The 2nd largest Barrier reef in the world, Jungle rivers, mountains, waterfalls, a cultural melting pot. A stable political scenario due to former British rule and they spoke English to boot!

    I had to check it out. My dream evolved from a simple backpacking trip into an overland journey. I should take a bike - the ultimate form of transport in the 3rd world. No schedules, no timetables, fewer access limitations and greater speed!

    The problem, as for most folks, was breaking away from work. I had a cozy union gig that would disappear with a puff of smoke if I were to leave long term. So I waited... even went back to school and changed careers. But the dream never escaped me. Time went by, and my friends and family were, I'm sure, sick of hearing about my Belize adventure. I realized that if I did not go now, I would never go. I had to will it to happen.

    So with some carefully cultivated support from my work and my amazing new wife and to the bewilderment of my friends, I started to accumulate gear, shots, maps and paperwork. I sold my great DR350 and bought my 3rd KLR. Around this time, my best and longest friend Jason said something along the lines of "That sounds like something I'd like to do too". I somewhat doubted that would happen, but after he took a rider course, got his license, bought an 04 KLR and started gearing up, I knew he was in.

    So off we went, 75 days, over 17,000kms and not just to Belize, but across the continental US, both coasts of Mexico and through Guatemala. It was on.
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    #1
  2. Roguester

    Roguester Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    13
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Oh boy this sounds good !
    #2
  3. Desert2202

    Desert2202 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    818
    Location:
    Alice Springs Central Australia
    Bring it on, I'm in the mood for a great RR. :clap I'm in your boat as I have wanted to do "The Lap" of Oz (about 18,000km ) for years, mmmmm, I wonder how much Long Service Leave I have up my sleeve.

    Cheers Mate

    Geoff.
    #3
  4. Too Tall

    Too Tall Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Iowa Great Lakes
    Having vacationed a few times in Belize, I always thought dual sporting the country would be fun. Just not excited about the trip thru Mexico currently. Looking forward to your ride report.
    #4
  5. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    The bike:

    After some consideration, I chose the 08 KLR. I wanted a newer bike and this one was left-over stock at a savings of $1500 CDN. This bike didn't need a whole lot for my needs, but I added mods where I felt it was necessary.
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    I installed some crash bars (more on this later), a skid, heated grips, handguards, and went through most of the bolts, replacing them with grade 12.9 (stock is grade 8 or less). I went with Happy Trails for the Panniers and racks, got a big tailbag, bought Bicimapas for the GPS and some odds and ends. Before departure, I painted all red plastic black and had the Panniers powdercoated by my brother in law (Thanks Dan). Also got some help from my father in law, shortening and re-welding the kickstand, which is way too long from the factory (thanks Thys)

    Chapter one: Across America at 4500RPM.

    Day 1 - Nov 8, 2009: the big day - 505kms. Vancouver to just outside Portland,Oregon.

    Up early at 5am. Final prep and a great big breakfast from Megan. Jay couldn't eat much, I have some butterflies too. An emotional goodbye as we wave goodbye to our wives and they watch us ride away down the hill.


    A bit of maintenance before we head out:
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    Beards for warmth!
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    Ready to go:
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    Medium to Heavy rain as we head out. A bit chilly at 6 Celsius but not bad at all. My brother Mark meets us 20 min in and convoys with us to the border. A nice touch. Hugs goodbye and advice given.

    We are a little worried about the US border crossing but it goes off fine after a one hour wait. Jay notices a bit of "Racial Profiling" going on in the selection of secondary searches. Coincidence?
    Rain and some wind on and off to Tacoma. Make some good time and arrive past Portland for a cheap hotel, Burgers/Beer.
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    So far everyone super friendly.The subtle cultural differences are apparent, Shiny American Flags on baseball hats and references to Jesus read from the highway.

    Jay's bike is getting some bad hesitation. ONLY while riding downhill in the rain. ??? We check out and switch the air filter in case of water contamination. More on this later.
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    #5
  6. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Geoff - Go for it mate!

    Too Tall - Despite all of the negative news, we had few troubles in Mexico at all. I still maintain that the downtown east-side in Vancouver, or the major cities in the U.S. would be a lot more dangerous. I would boogie away from the border towns though.
    #6
  7. Greenflyfarmer

    Greenflyfarmer I'm better now.

    Joined:
    May 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,856
    Location:
    Hungry Mother, Virginia
    :lurk
    #7
  8. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Day 2 - Portland Or to Redding CA - 680kms

    Awake at 0530 and on the tarmac by 0630. Beautiful sunrise and Rainbow but otherwise the I-5 is boring as hell. Stop at a classic 70's diner for B-fast and the sky opens up. Heavy rain and gusts but we keep truckin along at 110km/hr.
    We're sore but we "Man up" and eat miles all day. Although we've been successful in avoiding the big chain restaurants we succumb to Red Lobster. As usual Jay's food looks better than mine:

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    Lots of curious looks from passers-by, the most common question being "Keeping Dry?"
    Pretty Major gusting in Southern Oregon and esp as we cross into Cali. Comes from both sides and tosses the bike around pretty hard. Plenty of rain now and the semis blast by us all day. Good times all around. Check into the first of many Motel 6's.

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    Day 3 - Nov 10th - Redding to Bakersfield Cali - 704kms

    Pretty uneventful day, just tearing up miles. Jay's bike took a spill in the courtyard but no real damage, just a tweaked Pannier rack. Had trouble getting my cold-blooded bike to fire. Finally kicked over with a HUGE backfire that echoed through the courtyard- BANG! Well at least it's running.


    Good weather all day and had the rain gear stowed away by mid-day, 19C in Sacramento. First Palm trees spotted at B-fast:

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    Landscape starts changing to nice grassy rolling plains and we are enjoying the warmer weather.

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    Still on the I-5 and it's still pretty mind-numbing. As many Semis as there are cars here. Bikes are running perfect and our Comms keep us from getting too bored:

    Great restuarant in Santa Nella:
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    We end up in Buttonwillow Cali after a long, sore day. Monkey Butt. But I still had to go for a rip in the sand in front of our next Motel 6:

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    Jay putting the bikes to bed:

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    Room is $42 and we dine with a bunch of Drifting enthusiasts at the local BBQ joint.

    Day 4 - Nov 11 - Buttonwillow to Parker Arizona - about 500kms

    Finally off the Interstate for 90% of the day. Hwy #58 to #395 to #62. The way into Mojave was beautiful, lots of winding hills and wind farms:

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    Downtown Mojave, this Diner is good:

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    A few small towns, then rock formations take over the landscape. We start hitting thermals that spike the temp by several degrees. Weird. We're in the Mojave now, Tumbleweeds and windy bi-ways. It's straight outta Hollywood, it's dusty trailers and abandoned cars in the middle of the desert. Awesome.

    My bike is starting to eat oil at anything over 100km/hr. Pass through Joshua Tree and onto 29 Palms, where I annoy Jay by constantly singing the Robert Plant tune of the same name over the comms.

    Locked up Joshua Tree:

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    :augie "When I hear your voice on the radio..."

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    Highway 62 leads us all the way from 29 Palms to Parker Arizona. It's a surreal ride, with open desert and rock "Islands" all around us. Hard to describe, looks as though this were the ocean at some point. We ride well into the night, it feels faster when it's dark out.

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    Cali on one side of the bridge, Arizona on the other:

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    We check into, guess where? - Yes! Motel 6. Another $40 well spent.
    #8
  9. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Day 5 - Nov 12 2009 - Parker Arizona to Lordsburg NM - 650kms

    Kind of a "late" start for us at 0930 after adjusting both our chains. 2 lane road for the first part of the day. Good breakfast at a "Saloon" type diner:

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    Overcast and warm. Cactus. Some interstate today. 7 lanes each way and douche drivers who love to tailgate.

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    A few short stops. At one coffee break, a group of car wash workers gather around the bikes and inundate us with questions. They are fascinated. One guy in particular asks why the hell we would want to do this and just says "You guys are crazy". They don't get it. They do mention that we "must have huge balls to do that trip". Indeed.

    Off the interstate and into some 2 lane:

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    We stop by an Apache Indian reserve, which reminds me of the ones back home. We are obviously the visible minority here, and when Jay asks for a pack of Camel Lights the lady at the gas station says: "What's that, Camel Whites?" We have a good laugh at this.

    We enter a beautiful mountain route (Hwy #60 if I remember correctly) that is the most scenic so far:

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    We dig it.

    Onto 2 lane lonely desert highway and we haul ass with the road to ourselves. Make it to Lordsberg with my neck pretty sore and Jay's shoulder feelin the pain as well. We thought this was a sub-500km day but it ended up being 650. No wonder we're tired.

    Ok I'm sorry to any residents of Lordsberg, but this place is kind of a dump. We check into a Ghetto hotel and have a sub-par dinner where we could not get a beer? :huh The whole town has an abandoned vibe to it. Of course, all of this would be 5 star compared to where we would end up shortly.

    Hotel:

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    Derelict restaurant. I tried to imagine what this place would have been like, hoppin' on a friday night in the 50's:

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    Our parking setup: 2 disc locks, a cinch lock through the skid-plates, a cable lock through the frames, Jays's steering locked and covers on both. Good luck with stealing that:

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    #9
  10. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Day 6 - Nov 13 - Lordsberg New Mexico to Van Horn Texas

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    We're slowing down a bit as we plan to service our bikes in Laredo Texas. Even at 700kms a day we would make it too late - Sat night. We're starting to take it easy, which is good cause we're beat.

    Highway 10 Interstate all day, mostly 2 lanes each way until El Paso, which has the typical 7 lanes, heavy traffic and lane jockeying. A little chilly, the handgrips and fleece jacket are on. El Paso is a bit of a trip as it is right on the border to Mexico, and the poverty is very apparent by the Shanty looking town, just a hundred yards over the border.

    Van Horn is a small strip town in the hills. Half of the town is closed up and the place has an eerie, half-ghost town vibe to it. It's cool.

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    At the ....Motel 6, we meet Alan Johnson, a very cool guy from North Carolina on a yellow Vstrom. He volunteers in Guatemala several months of the year, building housing and closed wood burning stoves for some of the Indigenous people there. He gives us advice, points out routes on our map and drops by later to give us the number for his Guatemalan "fixer" should we run into trouble. Cool guy.

    We have our first real Mexican food at a place called Guey's. Highly recommended.

    Day 7 -Nov 14 - Van Horn to Del Rio Texas -500km

    Out on some long and lonely 1 and 2 lane bi-way (#90).

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    Rest Stop:

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    My view from the cockpit:

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    At a stop in Alpine, I tighten up my chain and Jay notices something missing from his bike:

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    The end cap on the left side of his swingarm is gone. It'd be better if it was there, because it helps to secure the axle's position. We aren't there 10 min when a guy named Robert on a sweet Xr650R shows up. "Heard you were having some trouble". He has a look at the missing piece and says: "Oh we can fix that at my buddy's shop, follow me."

    So off to Doug's shop where he whips up a new plate on the water jet. Doug fixes everything from planes to boats to bikes. Great guys and many laughs. We witness the Texan tradition of taking the piss outta friends and strangers alike. Our first taste of real southern hospitality.

    Robert and his pride and joy:

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    Quick job for Doug on the Water Jet:

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    Thanks guys!

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    Texan Cattle Guard:

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    About and hour and half later we hit the road:

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    Still overcast, but clears in time for an awesome sunset. Big 200km stretch just before dark. Del Rio appears to be one big strip mall. Ate way too much dinner. The appetizer was the size of a big entree. The portions get bigger the further south you get into the States. Check into Motel 6 in Del Rio. No we're not sponsored but we should be.
    #10
  11. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Day 8 Del Rio to Laredo TX - 290kms

    Still slowing down to time a bike service, so a quick day. Very light traffic and 1 to 2 lane roads. A bit chilly, then warms up. Pretty boring straight road.

    Quick stop at an old Inn:

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    Stop in Eagle's Pass for fuel and B-fast in a cliche diner served by a waitress with one arm. Please ignore the dates on these: new camera.

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    We've been skirting the border for some time now and start to notice the large percentage of Mexican population and prevailing culture. Feels like we're already over the border.

    Pass our second border control check-stop. They asked for my passport, but I showed my International Driver's Permit and that was sufficient. This would be the first of many times that I would present the IDP when asked for a Passport.

    We were warned by Rob in Alpine to watch out for crime in Lardeo. He lived there for 2 years. "Secure your stuff!" he said. So we were wondering what it would be like here. Pulled in way ahead of expected at noon. Enough time for Jay to get a haircut by a nice lady with no English. Jay impresses me with some random Spanish phrases.

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    We also had time to scout out the dealership who had our new tires. On the way, Jay's chain gives up the ghost:

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    The culprit: a faulty master link clip and a very loose chain due to no luggage. A quick trip back to our room for tools and we're off:

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    Off to the post office to ship our heated vests, long underwear, rain jackets and some other random gear that we won't need. I ship my spare front tube as J has another. J sends on his water filtration system as we figure we'll buy water. Altogether we shed some extra weight. We'll pick this stuff up in L.A. at a friend's place.

    Watch your stuff in Lardeo apparently:

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    Where did the bikes go!!!:huh

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    Oh - there they are:

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    Good night Honey:

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    #11
  12. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Day 9 - Nov 16 - Laredo to McAllen Texas - 290kms

    We started the day visiting Suzuki of Lardeo. They are also a Kawi dealer. Jay had arranged to pick up some new TKC80's here (knobby tires for those who don't know).

    I went to pick these up and get a quote for an oil change/spooning on the tires. Jay also needed a coolant flush done. So the quote I got was $268 per bike. Huh?:eek1

    1.2 hours of labor per tire. I don't know about you, but I have personally done this in 20 minutes with a couple of shitty spoons in my driveway. I was pretty pissed and ready to leave. However, Jay still needed a rad flush and we needed to hit the road. After some humming and hawing and some prodding from Jay to just get going I agree to the service. I have regretted this ever since. Should have done it ourselves in the hotel room. Anyways, don't go here:

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    Rip off in effect:

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    Anyways, there are several lessons in this RR and this is the first: do it yourself unless it's really cheap!

    Met a fellow from Ontario who keeps us occupied, chatting while the service takes place. He claims that we should "Watch out in Mexico, they're all criminals!!" Uh-huh, and all Canadians live in Igloos too. Nice guy, but c'mon man.. We also quickly meet a cool couple (originally from Brazil but living in London) riding 2 up on an Africa Twin. They're headed our way. Wonder if we might run into them again?

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    It's time to get the F out of Lardeo, so we head out on some 1 and 2 lane bi-ways and it's surprisingly cold. My mesh jacket really flows a lot of air! We're trying to hit McAllen before dark, but no dice, we end up riding expressway at night with our tinted sheilds. Not recommended. Grab a room.

    It's about this time that we start reading the side effects of our Malaria meds: hair loss, blindness, bleeding from the ears, seizures, increased or decreased heart rate, dark spotting on the gums...WTF! We wonder if maybe we should skip em..

    We also are a little concerned about the border tomorrow. People have been more than paranoid about the gang warfare, Police corruption and the good 'ol H1N1. It's all you hear about in the news. We'll see how it goes..

    Dinner and bed in McAllen. Next up: the gulf of Mexico, finally.:freaky
    #12
  13. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Chapter 2- Gulf of Mexico
    ....Swine Flu and Gang Warefare - (ok maybe not).


    Day 10 - Mcallen Texas to La Pesca Mexico - 320kms

    Up at 0630, half hour coffee at Starbucks and Jay changes some money into Pesos. Security near the border is high on our minds. Lots of disbelief about our plan from people that we meet and dire warnings from all. We maintain that it's all hype until we see it for ourselves.

    Hit the border around 0900 and we're careful to find the right offices. After some missed turns we're underway. I had warned Jay that there likely would be no english spoken here. He has a hard time believing this as we're so close to the border. Still, we need sign language and gestures to head in the right direction. We find the BIG building and it takes me an hour to process in. It's a tiring business of getting several sets of copies and bouncing between clerks for payments, forms and stamps:

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    I fight for the 90 day vehicle permit, but I have already told them I plan to carry on to Belize. They give me a resounding no and a 30 day pass. This means we'll have to re-process the bikes in when we re-enter Mexico later. Damn. Anyways, we have 30 days for the bikes and for us. Plenty o' time.

    Jay is considerably faster getting through due to my coaching and we're done in about 1:40. No food yet and it's noon, this would become a common theme on the trip, as racking miles comes before everything else sometimes.

    As soon as we hit Mexico, the auto-routing on the GPS is telling me to go every which way. Down dirt tracks, over bridges and left and right every block. The problem here is that there are no visible street signs 90% of the time, so I couldn't follow it even if I wanted to. The Garmin 60 is not the kind you find in a car, so I don't get the fancy graphics.

    Again, safety is on our minds as we head into unknown neighborhoods and ride blindly into dusty alleys. So, as I would do many times on the trip, I follow the compass in the general direction that we want to go, and somehow we magically end up on the highway (#97) we were looking for. We could have been lost for hours, but trusting our gut on which way to go, rather what the goofy GPS unit is saying, saves our ass many times.

    So, we start hauling ass down #97, happy as hell to be in another country yet again. There is a quasi-lane/shoulder on the right, and we quickly learn to stay over here as people blast by us. This has the added bonus of avoiding on-coming cars in your lane. They could care less if you are in the way and oncoming lanes are considered fair game to pass - whether you're there or not. It's not worth playing chicken, as we'll lose every time.

    Jay striking some kind of random Zoolander pose. Note lane/shoulder. Our safe haven:

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    About 20 min in there is a secondary customs check. They argue that I'm missing a necessary stamp from customs. Here is your next lesson kids: compare all of your paper work with your buddy's. Look for inconsistencies. Fist thought is that I'll have to go back, 2nd thought is that he's looking for a bribe. Turns out it was neither, he stamps my papers and sends me on my way with a smile.

    There is a town every mile or so and #101 leads us through San Fernando to a PEMEX. The other hwy 101 keeps going south without going through town. This is another neato feature of Mexican roads; there are often 2 routes with the same hwy #.

    Hwy 101 to 180 east to 70. Finally heading to the coast. Beautiful rolling green hills, insane drivers, construction with gravel and bumpy drop-offs test the bikes. The KLR's love the Topes and fly over them without slowing. Handy for passing.

    Gulf of Mexico in sight! Sweet lagoon side Hotels beckon us from the roadway but we carry on to the ocean.

    The ocean on the other side of the continent!

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    River near town:

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    Bustling downtown La Pesca:

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    The huts, restaurants, and Palapas were completely deserted:

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    We feast at a seaside restaurant and the gracious owner offers us a camping spot next to some Gazebos out back for about $10US. A few beers in our little grass hut as we study the guidebooks and watch the sunset.

    Mmmm, fresh fried fish and shrimp for under $4:

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    Go here to camp and grab some good cheap grub. Just don't use the Bathroom. The fact that I still ate after visiting the John proved my mental toughness.

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    Tent with a view:

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    After a while, my cell phone has me wondering about those Malaria Med side-effects:

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    Day 11 - Nov 18th 2009 - La Pesca to Tamiahua -422kms

    Up at 0630 after tossing and turning overnight. Still cloudy and a bit of a chill. Rolling through dusty towns and looking for Edano which bypasses Tampico towards Papantla.

    We cross the Tropic of Cancer. Jay likes this.

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    Navigation with my GPS is a test in patience. In Mex, with a town every 100 yards, my screen shows all. Zoomed out, you see the big cities, zoomed in, you see a half mile ahead. Most of the time, you see this:

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    Hwy #180 leads right into Tampico which is a hornet's nest of shitty, multi-lane traffic snarl. We are trying to find a route back to #180 but there are no signs to be seen and we need to stop and look at the grid on the GPS.

    I am cruising a side street at about 40kms/hr. There is a car going the same way about a block ahead. I don't have a stop sign and I do my usual glance either way before entering the intersection ahead. In a flash, a car screams into view from my left. I grab as much front brake as I can. The bike does a nose dive, practically doing a stoppie. It looks like a near miss, then BAM! my front tire makes contact.... the bike immediately smashes into the ground to my left... I skid for about 8 feet on the hard, abrasive concrete road. The bike comes to a stop still running, and I thumb the switch and shut her down.

    Immediately I get a sharp shooting pain from my left hand. Jay comes in over the comms " Are you OK? talk to me!" He saw the whole thing from 40 feet back. He's there in a flash and we heave the bike upright and onto it's stand.

    The intersection, facing my direction of travel, complete with spectators:

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    Now the fun begins. The driver and his family stuck around and I ask right away if everyone is OK. Of course they are, they're in a car! Anyway, he speaks some english and says a few words before getting on his cell phone. What now? We get my bike out of the way. Locals gather around in interest.

    Before too long the driver of the red Cavalier, a guy around my age, tells me his mechanic figures the damage will cost around $80US. If I pay now I might be able to avoid Police involvement. This doesn't sit too well with me and I tell him to hold on while I talk to my insurance agent - (Sandborn's out of Texas). Jay grabs from ice from a nearby stand (for my hand) and I ask him to call the insurance folks. Time goes by and he is on hold waiting for an agent that speaks english.

    Our friend with the Cavalier with his back to us:

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    The douchebag, (ehem, I mean, other party) grows restless and calls in the transit Police (quasi cops). They arrive and immediately give the driver hearty, high-spirited hand shakes and hellos. I on the other hand, receive an ice-cold reception. They ask for all of my papers.

    Jay is still on hold at $3 a min.

    Much banter goes back and forth and I can see this is not going my way. My phrase book gets pushed into service and the guys' mom shows up to help translate. The ambulance arrives and I sign off to allow them to leave without treating me. After a half hour, Jay gives up on getting through to Sandborn's.

    Spot the missing plastic and soft ground:

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    In the end, they tell me without a doubt that the accident is my fault, (even though I was on the right and traveling slower). They even go as far as to say that I am traveling down a one-way street. Ha! I look ahead and see a stop sign facing my direction of travel and the end of the block.

    I am clearly out-gunned here, 4 people telling me I'm at fault and me having no Spanish or knowledge of Mexican traffic laws. The mom says I can go to the station and pay more, or settle it here for much less. You can see where this is going. In the end, the urge to get out of this shitty town, avoid the courts, more bribes, the cop shop and a lengthly delay wins over. I cough up $120US for "damages" - (a scratch on his right rear bumper), and a "Ticket".

    The cops are nice enough to guide us out of town and back to #180 and the toll bridge.

    We need an alternate destination and spot Tamiahua on the coast. The bike is running Ok, but I have tweaked steering, a smashed upper fairing and road rash on my crash bars, mirror, front fender, gps, clothing and luggage.

    We carry on with our detour through rough, pot-holed winding roads and a river washout. We find Tamiahua and stop at the first Hotel we see. Super Friendly owner, 300 Pesos and a deluxe room. My hand is in a fair amount of pain, but the bike still carries on. The crash bars did an amazing job, as did my armored jacket and pants. Without any of these items, I have no doubt that I would still be in Tampico, in much worse shape.

    The lush, narrow, scenic road to Tamiahua. Can you believe I'm still stopping for photos?:

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    Safe parking at the Hotel:

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    Jay and make our way riverside for a very good cheap seafood dinner and a well-deserved beer.

    One second later, I would have missed him by a mile, one second earlier and I could have been paralyzed. It makes you think....

    I start to miss my wife even more than usual at this point, but I decide to keep the crash a secret until I see her. Better for her not to worry.. I drift off to sleep, counting my blessings..
    #13
  14. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Day 12 - Tamiahua - El Tajin - Papantla - only 200kms

    Leaving Tamiahua:

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    Off we go to Alamo to try and avoid Poza Rica on our way to Papantla. Near Alamo we run into Carlo and Ellie - the couple you may remember from Laredo Texas. We have a few laughs and swap stories. They are also headed for El Tajin, so we bid them farewell for now.

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    We run meet couple of workers from Alberta at a Pemex and they direct us towards Veracruz to stay out of Poza Rica's city centre and it's traffic, then turn towards El Tajin.

    Near Poza Rica:

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    We try this, but get mixed up and lost, resorting to the GPS, which leads us to an airstrip (called Tajin) rather than the ruins. We ride through a lot of small villages. The roads go from paved to dirt, to potholed dirt and mud. It is great to see some of the "real Mexico". The locals stare at us as though we are Martians, or as Jay describes it "as though we are naked and on fire". Their heads track us as we go by and the stare is unblinking.

    Random village road:

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    After several wrong turns, we make the ruins by 3:00 and grab our first meal of the day. Several ladies rush us as we pull in, vying for business at their cafes and trinket shops. It's the first taste of a touristy spot, and the vultures that go along with it. Again, there a few tourists around.

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    We catch Carlo and Ellie on their way out and chat for a bit, then through the gates we go. This site has a very spiritual feeling to it, a calm eeriness that is extenuated by a misty fog and a lack of crowds. Jay has never been to an ancient city and is suitably impressed. It's serene.

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    We make our way nearby to Papantla. This town is off the tourist grid somewhat, which is the way we like it. We find the Paulito Motel, clean rooms, courtyard parking and funky decor. It's about $25 and right near the action.

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    The street outside:

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    Packs of stray dogs:

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    First time for this so far:

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    After walking the town for a bit, we head up to a second floor retaurant overlooking the Zocalo (main square). Here we spot Carlo and Ellie down below and we invite them to join us. These 2 are an interesting couple. Originally from Brazil, they both live in London, where Carlo is a motorcycle courier and Ellie is a restaurant manager. They shipped their hefty Africa Twin, complete with tons of spares, to Alaska and are making their way to Tierra del Fuego. We chat about all kinds of things, from history to travel to politics. I learn a ton about Brazil. Many laughs.

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    My body is still a bit sore from the crash, but altogether getting a lot better. My spirits are up, especially after seeing the ruins.

    We are really getting into the groove now. There is something undescribingly fulfilling about this kind of travel. The unpredictability of what lies ahead, the venture into the unknown. We don't know where we will sleep, eat, or what kind of challenges lie on the way. On the bike, you are a stranger in a strange land, struggling to communicate, find your way, and literally skirting death every day. I am in my element. I can tell Jay is too.

    We've said goodbye to the everyday grind, the same pattern and surroundings, the constant drone of T.V. advertising. I don't miss billboards, or Xmas shopping in the mall, or staring into my computer screen, or the inundation of fear mongering on the news. It's just me and my buddy, moving on, day after day to somewhere incredible. To me, this is a dream realized.
    #14
  15. 00SS

    00SS Always a vicious cycle

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,728
    Location:
    Keller, Texas
    I'm in.. great narrative and pics. Sorry to hear about the spill.. but nice to see you keep a positive outlook. be well and safe travels.
    #15
  16. RodT

    RodT Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2008
    Oddometer:
    371
    Location:
    Westwood, CA.
    Enjoying your RR, looks like you were having fun, sorry to here about the crash, hope you are doing ok. I was wondering as to the type of Coms. you are using? My riding are looking for some, any tips would be appreciated. Rod
    #16
  17. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Thanks for posting guys:D

    Rod, We have the Scala Rider Q2 system. It came in very handy on the trip, while Navigating in the cities etc. You never have to doff the helmet to talk, or yell at each other/use signals.

    We did run into reliability issues sometimes. The comms are voice activated, and they would refuse to turn on sometimes. We found that coughing loudly was the most effective way of activating them. They would also cut out mid-sentence a lot, or just not activate at all.

    We were still very happy to have them though, esp for safety, when you are getting passed, or one of us had made a pass and could see the road ahead, giving the OK for the second bike to go.

    More posts this weekend:freaky
    #17
  18. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Day 13 - Papantla to Lake Catemaco Mex. - 418kms

    Great riding today, starting with nice twisting road in lush, green hillside. Making good time towards Catemaco.

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    Toll roads and bridges on Hwy 180.
    Stop for B-fast at Costa Esmerelda, another sweet place with no-one visiting:

    This place looks fine for Breakfast:

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    Quite nice actually. Why is it deserted?

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    Out front:

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    Jay gives us a commentary:

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    If you are getting red X's on these, you're missing the vids! Update your Flash Player:
    http://www.adobe.com/support/flash/downloads.html

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    The Mexicans here are still driving with a death wish, we dodge them in the oncoming lane as they pass, leaving inches between us. They drive as though an Atomic bomb is going to detonate at their destination and they are on their way to disarm it.

    Carlo and Ellie catch up to us on the highway, and I convince them to come with us to Catemaco. We decide to follow Carlo's superior GPS map, which works great, other than a 18km detour. We are attempting to bypass Veracruz.

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    On Carlo and Ellie's bike:

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    One of the friendly guards at a Toll stop:

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    Heading into Catemaco, we get held up by a line of slow trucks spewing black smoke. Normally we would blast by them , but the road is very curvy. Luckily the scenery here is amazing, so we don't mind.

    Arriving in Catemaco, a group of vultures on little 125cc bikes swarm us, looking to get a commission for bringing us to a hotel. We are wise to this and ignore them to avoid a 10-20% markup. We pause to soak up the surroundings. This place is very beautiful. It appears to be a vacation spot mostly for Mexicans.

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    We try a few Hotels and decide on the Brujo - a bit pricey at $400 Pesos, but a killer balcony view and nice clean room with a shower. We secure the bikes behind locked gates a block away. Dinner with C and E and then lots of walking around town, to the Zocalo and up and down the Malecon. Around Catemaco:

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    We sleep under our nets as we had a window open and let in a swarm of Mozzie type friends.

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    #18
  19. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Day 14 - Nov21st - Catemaco to Playa Azul - 330kms

    We wish we could stay here longer. There is a lot to see on the lake and in the surrounding area, but we want to keep our spare 5-day buffer in case of "misadventures". The only deadline we have is meeting our wives for Xmas on the other coast of Mexico. Unfortunately we have to bid farewell to to our Amigos Carlo and Ellie, we'll miss them. They are headed to tour the Yucitan and we are doing a straight-shot towards Chetumal and Belize.

    A great start - headed to Salto Eyipantla, back the way we came in, about a half hour. This is another tourist stop, and thus we are swarmed by locals that make a living from visitors. We meet our first straight-up child beggar.

    Some are a bit too persistent, I throw one of these fellows off by speaking in French and pretending not to understand English. This works until he fetches some French people, at which point the game was afoot. We grab a coffee and are amazed by the multitude of shops and cafes, all empty. How do these people survive? I hope that some of you out there stop by to support them. Even grabbing a snack helps out their families. The waterfall was worth the visit:

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    At our Cafe:

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    Carrying on, there is some awesome 2-lane riding on #180 east of Catemaco, roads are in great shape, tons of twisties. Onto #185 and several toll stretches, most expensive was $55 Pesos per bike, ouch.

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    We grab our traditional (really late) B-fast at a roadside place with a Clint Eastwood theme. How could I not eat here? Clint is the man!

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    Pretty girl with her mom:
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    So basically a big breakfast is $2.40 Canadian dollars. We aint in Cancun folks. I would eat this B-fast countless times and not really get sick of it:

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    Onto mostly 4 lane, straight road. Marshlands and evidence of flooding in this area. We make our destination, Paraiso, but we cannot find any Hotels or even an area to camp. Most places are fenced off. Plenty of restaurants though. So we keep heading along the coast towards Frontera, running out of sun, shit. We contemplate camping on the garbage strewn beach, and we probably should have, but our gut tells us that it wasn't a good plan, so we follow a sign saying "Hotel".

    We end up down a dirt road at a complex with a locked gate and no one around. We start hollaring "Hola" and a young boy appears, observes us for a bit, not knowing what to do. They are surprised to see us. Eventually he lets us in. We ask "quanto questa por dos camas por favor?"

    They want $500 pesos which we laugh at it's a bit much. I mean, they can take our money, or get no money when we leave. I offer a more reasonable $300 and the mom disappears to call the Jeffe. While they stall us for 10 min, I grow impatient and fire up the bike to leave. This gets their attention, and they accept our offer.

    A strange place, this was probably a nice little resort at some point, but it was allowed to deteriorate. It is abandoned other than our hosts, the caretakers. Our room smells horrible, something is wrong here. We guess that there must have been a flood, and we are smelling the mold damage. Either that or something died in the walls. Maybe both. Anyways, it's pretty clean and besides the bugs, really loud AC and the smell it's not bad at all.

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    It's a short walk to the beach:

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    Which is somewhat polluted unfortunately:
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    Still a cool location. The family's youngest son had a cute dog that we made friends with. We're both suckers for dogs:

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    This boy was very curious and taught us a few new words in Spanish:

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    Did I mention the A/C was a bit loud? Still, better than no A/C. It's hot:

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    I should mention that the we and the bikes get a whole lot of attention here. It's clear that the area is seldom visited by tourists, esp on our "monster machines" with their look, sound and SIZE.

    Also, the driving on the Gulf continues to boggle our minds. It is like Russian Roulette with a car. People will pass on blind hills and corners, without a clue if they have oncoming. Little memorial shrines dot the shoulder everywhere. As a result, we have to favor the right side of the lane, as cars will often be coming at us full charge as we round a corner or crest a hill, a foot from our bike, doing 130 kms/hr.

    We've been through at least 6 checkpoints by now, about 3 military and 3 Federales. No searches at all. Most wave us on and a couple have asked our destination. That's it. Always friendly.
    Also, don't expect signage or street names anywhere in this area, even on the highway. Because few tourists drive here, they don't feel the need to provide us any clues. The locals know the way already.

    I'm missing my wife Megan a lot by now. Haven't talked to her in 5 days. No cell coverage and I don't know how to use the pay phone yet. Part of me is glad that she is safe and comfy at home, not dodging traffic, eating sketchy food, not knowing where you'll sleep and swatting bugs. I personally enjoy this, but I'm not sure if she would! Ok maybe she would..
    #19
  20. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Day 15 - Playa Azul to Zoh Laguna - 500kms

    Out of our stinky room and we have trouble waking our hosts to let us out of the locked gate.

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    Eventually Jay rouses them. Back through several small, dirty villages. Garbage lines the front of houses and fills ponds and lagoons. Stopped by a couple of bored and curious Transit Police who ask to see some ID and ogle the bikes - I.D.L. to the rescue again.

    On the way out:
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    Coastal highway runs inland a bit and we hit some rain alongside some wetlands. Bikes are popular in the towns here and it's not uncommon to see 4 people per bike: Mom, Dad, 2 kids.

    The stare-downs continue, not always the friendliest looks, more like a 1000 yard stare. Jay and I start judging "smiles per hour" which sits at around '6' here.

    4 lane road leads to narrow 2 lane bi-way without traffic. Hauling ass. Couple of tolls on this road, the most expensive being before Ciudad del Carmen - it's about $13 for both bikes, or about 8x what we're used to. It's a long ass bridge. Turkey sandwiches at a roadside diner, we order seconds. $2 a sandwich.

    A few more checkpoints, no hold-ups. The route towards Subancuy shows evidence of some pretty major storms, there several downed hydro towers and plenty of busted up buildings on the beach.

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    Arrive at our destination of Sabancuy. I had thought the town was ocean-side, but it's actually inland a couple of kms. Beach was nice:

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    It's only 11:38am and we decide to keep moving towards Xpuzil (town/ruins) after checking out the town:

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    Coffee stop:
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    Highway towards Xjupil:

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    We see these at the side of the road in a small town and decide to stop:

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    They are (from right) Elijah, David, Flo and his brother (forgot his name). Flo on his GS, from Germany,with his Bro on the Africa twin are doing the Alaska to Argentina thing. David (UK - XT600) and Elijah (USA-Dr650) are doing the same route and ran into the brothers.

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    They are all in their 20's, full of piss and vinegar and refuse to pay more than $10 for accommodations. Their bikes are heavy as hell and loaded to the nines. David carries 3 tires. They have many stories of adventure. Flo remembers Carlo and Ellie from when they were in Whitehorse. Ha. We ride together in a pack of six for a while, which is kinda cool - like a gang.

    At the gas station we say bye, they are keen to keep moving and camp, we intend to find a village and chill out. These guys are on a hardcore budget and can't afford to pay guides, do tours, boat trips, etc. They have to camp all the time to stretch the funds for up to a year or more. Good on em. Our trip is more cozy, but still budget. We enjoy spreading our funds around to various little cafes and small hotels. It helps the economy here.

    We double back a short ways to Mercedes Cabanas in Zoh Laguna, outside of Xjupil. The owner Antonio is a great dude, very friendly and engages us in conversation despite our poor Spanish. Phrase book is in effect.

    Mercedes:

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    Antonio made us a wicked Chicken feast that we washed down with a few beers each. Comes out to about $210 Pesos which is cheap for back home, but here it costs more than the lodgings.

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    I ate way too much spice with that. Ughh- gut rot.

    Jay is reading up on Guatemala and is rightfully taken aback by the grim picture that Lonely Planet paints:
    "No one could pretend that Guatemala is a very safe country. There are just too many stories of robbery, often armed robbery, for that. Rapes and murders of tourists have also happened."

    Reminds me of the UK, Canadian and US embassy travel advisories for the country. I've been there twice (a long time ago) and it doesn't echo my experiences. Something to think about as we ride closer.
    #20