Fin and MechanicO: Last Boat To Cuba

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by FinTec, Feb 27, 2021.

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  1. Animo

    Animo Been n00b awhile Supporter

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    Watching the premiere of the latest video.

    Well done Maestro, well done.

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  2. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer Super Supporter

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    Lulu and Maria have been busy. He always referred to her as his next ex wife:rofl
    She was with us on the trip up to Cuba from Cartagena. Here she is:
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    Old Lulu married up(but way down in age:wink:)
    I can only assume she is the mother of his children, at the time I was understanding that she was going to school to become a doctor.

    Great job on the video Fin!
  3. FinTec

    FinTec Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
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    Made my way to Trinidad today. Looked forward to this for a while as I have heard good things about Trinidad. Plan was to hang there for at least 2 nights and enjoy Cuba at a slower pace before heading out from Cienfuegos.


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    Booked a Casa for the next 2 nights with an option for a third.


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    My Casa host, Jorge, was a great kid and very helpful. This is him getting me a place to park my bike just down the street from the Casa.

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    The parking spot was also the headquarters for the L.A.M.A. (Latino Americos Motociclistas Association). Met one of the members inside who was very chatty and brought over a girl who could translate for him. Here is his motorcycle from Thailand

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    The next day I planned to do a day ride with two from the Furious 5, Klaus and Jorge. Dropped the luggage and ran MechanicO in lean mode, something I have not done in a while. Man, he is way more aggressive without the weight. And this day turned out to be another gold star day of riding. The plan was to do all the mountain roads north of Trinidad. It is an endless network of small roads connecting a pile of small villages. First, need to hook up with the boys

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    Incredible ride. Some huge empty resort up on top of a hill.

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    Even some great sections of two track

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    We end up at a parking area for a short hike to a waterfall. Of course it was closed but that did not stop Klaus from sweet talking the onsite manager of the place to let us check it out. We even paid the normal fee and she said go for it. Less than a 1km hike then this

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    I thought this was a sign telling you there was a machine-gun spot coming up. Just me?

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    So this was when Covid and low crowds actually worked for us. There was no one around of course. And here we are looking at an incredible swimming area under the falls. So like a bunch of 10 year olds we stripped down to our underwear and jumped in. It was incredible. I don’t know how you are, but to go from hot sweaty bike gear to cool fresh water is therapeutic.

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    On the way out saw some strange art on the side of the road. Mushrooms with arms!

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    More wacky fun bill boards

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    Ended the day at their casa with a great home cooked meal from their host. View from the top of the casa.

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  4. codebot

    codebot Neophyte RTA (Round The Americas).

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    What a great interview. I thank you. My plan for a few years has been to be on that boat in 2022 and be able to toast Ludwig in person. Alas, as with many people, everything is up in the air. I am glad to hear there is hope.
    MrBob and GSABest like this.
  5. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Have completely and totally enjoyed all the recent updates @FinTec; what a great bunch of days of riding and checking out spots around the island. Good on ya for lending Amit stuff to get him back up and riding - hella crazy to jump on a bike and just ride without means to fix a flat, etc, but I can overthink things too...lol. Vanilla ice cream for lunch - fantastic.

    That interview with Captain Ludwig is one for the books man, what a great piece of history to have recorded and published. Great job facilitating the interview and splicing the angles together, I need to go back to the post where you outlined the equipment you use and pick some up myself. Won't need it for awhile, but being able to do an interview like that and capture quality audio is perfect.

    Look forward to what comes next man - keep the knobby side down as you make your way back to this side of the border.
  6. roadcapDen

    roadcapDen Ass, Grass or Gas, no free rides.

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    Yup, she does have nice pineapples...

    Missing my vacations in Cienfuegos.

    keep up the good work Fin and O!
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  7. Golden955

    Golden955 Been here awhile

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    GD, could you be a cyclist and not want to sail with that skipper? I had read so much about him and his ship but you brought him to life.

    Thank you for the amazing RR. I think my first attempt (and only) to do a live one lasted until dinner my first night.

    Really enjoyed this.

    BTFW it snowed again last night here in CO.
  8. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

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    Awesome pics!
  9. FinTec

    FinTec Been here awhile Supporter

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    Ooops, I screwed up the time line here. the last post was supposed to be after this one. So the below one I am still on my way to Trinidad.....

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    I finally hit the town of Pilon. Probably one of the more involved Covid check points here. And I even remember Amit and Jamie mentioning this. They had been ordered to only drive through the town and not stop. However, I just needed gas as I was turning around to go back about 15 minutes to take an off-road track I had gotten from RTWPaul. This route took you into the mountains of the Sierra Maestra National Park and over to the other side into the town on the coast. For me I was shooting for Manzanillo. Well, I wanted some off road riding and that is what I got. Most challenging riding of the trip and an absolute blast. Probably had 6+ water crossings and some technical uphills of similar caliber as my home state of Colorado.

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    One thing I have found they do is a section will be so steep they actually pave it in concrete. And also corrugate the concrete for better traction. Makes for some wacky climbing as at some points it feels like my bike will flip over backward it is so steep. I tried to show that here with this shot but of course the camera always flattens things out.

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    I also passed through some VERY remote villages in these mountains. And the people just looked different than the other Cubans I had been interacting with. I think they might have been some of the indigenous groups of the island but I have to be 100% honest I did not confirm this.

    I think being near the historical point where Castro and Che landed on their boat to start their revolution made for every little town to have some sort of war monument.

    These where all kind of in the middle of nowhere. And all not in such good shape.

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    It was getting near the end of the day and I had a Casa Particular reserved in Manzanillo, so into town I go.

    I show up at the Casa and they tell me they are closed due to Covid. I wish they would take their listing down then as this was not good. And then even better, ALL Casa’s have been ordered to close in town. So I ask what my options are and they said there is a state run hotel in town that will let tourists in. OK, I go to that location and it closed as well. But the nice guard there tell me to go back into town as there is another hotel there for tourist. Of course I go there and they are closed. At this point I see a cop and figured can’t hurt to ask. He confirm all I already know, there is no place to stay in this town. I was a little pissed at Manzanillo at this point.

    It was one of those stress moments for sure: no rooms available in the town, other towns too far away to make before night, I had about 30 more minutes of light max, and I only had ice cream for food that day. Hmmmm.

    Get comfortable being uncomfortable, right? OK, I had food, some water, and full tank of gas. Just need a place. I passed some dirt roads coming into town so I boogied back to the first one of those and started down it. It went into strange area of this thicket brush that was about 10’ high with roads crisscrossing all over the place. I just kept riding until I saw a small clearing on the side of one of these roads. Good enough as I eyeball the sun that was going to be gone in less than 15 minutes. Park bike, set-up tent, and ate some food just as the sun dropped for good. Another wacky day in Cuba.

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    Got up early to pack my crap before some farmer comes down here. Did have one odd thing happen, as I am eating breakfast a guy walks down the road toward me and has a machete in his hand. I get ready for the usual stop and stares at me and the bike. But nothing, literally nothing. Walks right past me and my camp without turning his head or eyes towards us and strode on past. Like we were not there. Time to go.

    At this point it is official, I am heading back towards Cienfuegos to meet up with the Stalhratte. One thing to note, during this trip we all received an email from Captain Ludwig requesting if we could bump the departure date up 4 days. Hmmm. Using WhatsApp, the Furious 5 made an offer of 2 days. Captain agreed and now we leave on the 12th of April.

    These little road side stands can sometime have something good to eat. Or not. This one had what looked like cookies and peanut butter bars. They were neither. I believe they were flour and water in just different shapes. Sigh. But she did have coffee! She served me a super mini-cup espresso, I asked for a "cup (taza)" of coffee. She nodded her head, put a coffee cup on the table, poured the espresso into it and handed me that. Hey, I got what I asked for.

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    As always in Cuba, you just don’t know what is around the corner. In the middle of nowhere this guy was polishing probably one of the best 57’ Chevy’s I had seen on the island so far. Of course it had the diesel engine conversion as they all do but this one was so clean and well done. The motor looked 100% factory. It even had a turbo and A/C. This thing was deluxe. And the guy loved it and was glad I stopped to chat and take some pics.

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    Spent the night in the town of Ciego de Avila at a nice Casa in town. Here is Ernesto in front of his Casa.

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    Some Casa you have to be ready to really be a part of the family. Which is frankly awesome. In this case I had this fantastic apartment with its own kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. But you literally accessed it through their living room. So for me to come and go I walked in front of them watching TV. And when I ate dinner and breakfast, I would also be watching TV with them. It was kind of fun as we made fun of the Mexican soap opera they were watching. Those things are SO over the top with outrageous drama and everyone is incredibly gorgeous and handsome.

    Next day heading for Trinidad. Rode over my first dam in Cuba. Picture time!

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    And now for something completely different. No reason at all for this shot other than to make a point. I stopped by the side of the road to check my map and saw this from my bike

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    It was a hole filled with mud and someone had put a stick in it. And I remember thinking to myself “yea, don’t be a stick in the mud, get out there”. So that is my message to you with graphics!
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  10. FinTec

    FinTec Been here awhile Supporter

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    OK, back on track, now I am in Trinidad just after a great day of riding with Klaus and Jorge.......
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    Jamie rolled in the next day into Trinidad and stayed at my Casa as I had a spare room. He and Amit had their own adventure as Amit was only 7km from Cienfuegos when he ran over, as he puts it, a crap load of crabs on the road coming into town. And his new chain from Mexico just before the trip also broke its master link. I suspect the chain tension was too high and combined with an inexpensive chain this is what you get (from Amit’s pic he sent us). The shattered and violently removed front sprocket guard was from the first chain letting go back in Mexico.

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    Jamie happened to be nearby and met up to see if he could help. Apparently, all they could do is try to ride it to town on the flat and resulted in tire coming off rim. Then walking besides using motor. I think Amit has learned a great lesson in having a kit with you to fix your own flats! Good news they met up with a tire repair shop and Amit got going again. However, he stayed in Cienfuegos as he had little confidence in the tube now and he was able to just stay on the Stahlratte as it was already in port.

    Jamie kept on going to Trinidad to join us for the last group dinner (except for Amid)

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    Random observation: actually Klaus pointed this out to me. In the picture below, is a gentleman with a bird in a cage walking down the street. Klaus tells me people in Cuba actually “walk” their birds here. And it is a particular type of bird I am afraid I cannot remember the name of. The Cubans believe walking the bird makes it happier and thus it sings more when at home. And of course, now all you see is people walking their bird when before it never registered.

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    The next morning it was time to leave Trinidad and head to Cienfuegos to un-register the bikes and load onto the Stahlratte.

    Leaving the casa

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    We have some time to kill so Jamie has the idea to ride up the mountain road just outside of town and see if his hose repair is holding up. Quick back story: one the first night riding in Cuba, Jamie went to Trinidad and camped up in the hills above town. In his haste he ran over a farmers watering hose. It split and started leaking. Jamie fixed it with some self-bonding tape he had. Can read more about in his report.

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    So we ride up to the scene of the crime and sure enough, the tape is holding and the farm was saved! Jamie here looking at the fix saying he should have used a 30 degree spiral wrap with apposing vertical strips, when I suggested a 45 degree wrap one clockwise and a second counter-clockwise. What a bunch of dorks!

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    Only an hour ride and on the way Jamie was trying to spend the last of his Cuban Pesos to he bought some rum while on the road

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    We get to the vehicle registration place and they, or course, are not ready to take us and say come back in 2 hours. With 2 hours to spare Jamie had the perfect time killer in his notes. There is an old abandoned nuclear power plant just outside of town we could go check out. Excellent!

    This place was amazing and we could have spent some time there. But two issues, guard at front and we had maybe 20 minutes we could spend there.

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    Apparently building on it started in the mid 80’s but when the Soviet Union collapsed in early 90’s all construction screeched to a halt. And here it sits. With the worlds most bored security guard.

    Ride back to vehicle registration and, boy, if you think your DMV back home is a hoot, try a Cuban Mega-Bureaucracy Powered one. We did and I still wake up screaming sometimes. If you look into the eyes of everyone in this shot, you will see the dread.

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    Fun little car nearby as we wait it out. Crazy small and I am sure the guy’s head was touching the roof.

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    Unfortunately they did take back the license plate and the little card we carried. All I have left is this inspection sticker they put on the fork tube. I figure if I ever get hassled by someone if MechanicO is safe, I’ll just point to this sticker and say “Hey, the Cuban government says he is safe. Good enough for me”.

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    Drove the last couple of miles to the Stahlratte and took this group shot in front of a hotel down by the marina

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    Quick inspection at the marina with sniffing dogs and looking through our luggage

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    Then load them on the boat. Here goes Amit’s bike

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    Then the heave ho on MechanicO

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    A decision was made to set sail that night instead of the morning. Fantastic, let’s start this trip back home now. Parting shot from marina as we pull out. That is two of the crew from the trip out on the dock. They are going to shuttle a catamaran from the marina back to Cancun for a fee.

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    And as the sun sets we watched Cuba fade away behind us.
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  11. FinTec

    FinTec Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    574
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    Colorado
    And now the sailing voyage home. If you remember my previous description of the trip out to Cuba, well, not much has changed. Good news is the wind was with us this time so we could actually sail a big portion of the trip and turn off the drone of the diesel engine. And the seas were much calmed. This all allowed us make it back in a time about one day less than the trip out. Approximately 3 days instead of 4. But the good news ends there. The boat still moved about, there was nothing to see, and everyone around you is feeling the same way. At certain points we are all kind of just bouncing around the boat, not saying much, meet for meals, then move around some more, sleep, repeat. Jamie stated it well; it felt like having a real bad hangover that never went away. Hats off to those who can do this, but this mountain man is NOT made for the sea!

    Nice sunrise on one of the mornings off the back of the boat.


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    One of the views on any given day

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    Bikes lashed down and covered

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    Of note, we did finally find the sticker of a fellow ADVRider member with a great ride report of making it down to Ushuaia/Fin del Mundo before Covid kicked in, Ohio_Danimal.

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    As we got closer to Cancun things got more interesting. Like a pack of dolphins that wanted to “surf” our bow. If there is reincarnation, make me a dolphin. These guys jumped out of the water, barreled rolled, did U-turns at speed, etc. Crazy fun to watch in their natural environment.

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    And as we got even closer, other boats and eventually land

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    Jamie bikini spotting at the beaches of Isla Mujer

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    And then the boat was docked at the same spot as before

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    Uncover the bikes and get ready to off load

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    This brought up a bit of a “difference of opinions” with the bikes. Captain Ludwig told us we would have to roll the bikes off the dock and park them on the street overnight. Hmmmm, no, was the group’s response. If you are a motorcyclist, you get it, not only your baby but for all of us, our only transportation home. Just not worth the risk. Ok, options 2 given to us was get up early and we’ll off load at 6am before any of the dock workers get there. Done and good option.

    Bikes the next morning on the street outside the marina

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    Then it was time to go, goodbyes all around on the Stahlratte and as I was walking away, I yelled back at the captain and got this parting shot

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    Was the last voyage of the Stahlratte to Cuba? Will she ever shuttle motorcycles over the Darien Gap again? Only time will tell. Thanks Captain.

    (**** make sure to watch the video interview I did with Captain Ludwig the page before this ****)

    And as we rode the ferry to the mainland and Cancun one more pass by of the Stahlratte from the window

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    You did your job Stahlratte and delivered and returned MechanicO and I to and from Cuba. Huge thank you. But don’t take it personally when I say I hope to never need your services again!
  12. FinTec

    FinTec Been here awhile Supporter

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    Culture shock. We all got it bad walking into Isla Mujer and Cancun. Being mega-tourist spots they are hot spots for capitalism and overindulgence. A slap if you just came from days on a boat and then three weeks in Cuba. Everything you need all the time. Don’t forget what you have everyone.

    Klaus and Jorge split off at the Ferry as they only lived an hour away in Playa Del Carmen. Amit actually stayed in Isla Mujer as he had a friend there to hang with. And Jamie and I made our way also to Playa del Carmen to stay with the world’s best host on ADVRider, Animo. Mateo is a fantastic guy and a real ambassador to all motorcyclists. Here we are eating tacos in Playa del Carmen with Mateo.

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    Had a weird effect going on this time off the boat. Hard to explain but felt “wobbly” on the bike. Still good to ride just not 100%. Did not really feel this going to Cuban and getting on bike but for some reason here I was. So decided to stay extra night at Mateo’s and force myself to eat his great cooking.

    Time to start the trip back home. But I almost got into a fist-fight with Jamie and Mateo as they demanded I take an alternate route into the interior of Mexico and hit towns such as San Cristobal and Oaxaca. I have to admit, what they described sounded fantastic. So we busted out the map and came up with a route that added two days to my itinerary. Perfect.

    The next day I took off for Isla Aguada on the Gulf as I had been there before and a great launch for the new route the next day.

    As always, looking for shade on the road

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    And after a long haul made it to “Freedom Shores” in Isla Aguada. I really do like this place. If you look up on iOverlander it is raved about. It is like an oasis in the middle of a rather bland little town. Right on the beach, huge trees shade the entire property, and Thelma who runs it is a sweetheart. You can either tent camp, RV park, or even has rooms for rent. On high season does have a restaurant and bar.

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    And of course missed my friend Pepe!

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    Camped before but this night opted for a room. But the next morning did not go so well right out of the gate.

    Leave Freedom Shores and head form the toll booth that is literally just around the corner. As I go through the toll it starts to rain hard. I pull over to the side after paying toll, park and put on my rain jacket. I also remove the GoPro form the chin mount on my helmet. A good move considering what happened. I then pull out into the rain and onto the road. Well, there was a little ledge to get back on the road and my back tire was pitched slightly to the right. Not a big deal but as it clears the ledge the entire rear of the bike slides to the left like it is literally on ice. I am not exaggerating here, it felt like I was on an icing road back in Colorado. OK, time to ease off the throttle and bring the speed down, but as it pendulumed back to the right that was it. Faster than I remember I low sided on my left. Dang it was so quick. All I remember was sliding to a stop with the chin of my helmet grinding on the asphalt and my hands out in front of me like Superman. Get up and to the “is everything OK?” check. Yep, all good. It had stalled MechanicO so did not need to turn him off. Cars going both ways stopped as I pretty much took up both lanes. I try to lift bike back up but the road was so slippery if just kept sliding away from me. Then two guys from two different cars joined me and help get him back up. OK, let’s roll him back towards the toll area out of traffic. Did that and thanked my two friends over and over.

    At this point I needed to just collect myself. I sat down on a ledge of concrete under a cover as the rain fell and just took some good long breaths. Stared checking myself again and the only thing I felt as far as pain was my left wrist. The padding in the jacket and pants as well as the aftermarket knee and shin guards on my legs all did their job perfectly. Can’t image what my knees would have felt like without.

    MechanicO was OK. Both mirrors where moved all over as these type do. And the left handguard cover was tore away from the mount. Some grinding on the left pannier and front crash bars. The GoPro mount on my chin took most of the face down slide on the asphalt. And my pants had an odd rip on the inside right leg that I figured out later on. The picture below you will see the right mirror is folded inward even though I felt on my left. When I rolled off bike I must have thrown my leg over the front and folded the mirror down and that mirror does not have the plastic handle on it to tighten as it broke off. So the end of the bolts sticks out. I bet my pants tore on that.

    In the first picture you can see the ledge up to the road and the spot where you see a box truck here is about where I splatted onto the ground.

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    I make the decision to go back to Freedom Shores and just take a break. Man, friendliest people here. I of course need to roll back through the toll booth the other way and pay again even though I went like 100 feet out and back. Oh well. The guy at the booth asks if I am OK and lets me through no charge. Hell yea, thank you amigo. Also, when sitting under cover in rain a cop car rolls up and asks if I am OK. Good people here in Mexico.

    Once at Freedom Shores I decide further to spend another day here and make sure my wrist is OK. I have broken both wrists before (not at same time) many years ago and know how it feels. This feels similar. I was able to operate the clutch but it did hurt a bit. But I still had some adrenaline. Wait until that wears off. I figure I’ll know for sure in the morning. If broken, it will swell up and I won’t even be able to touch it.

    So Thelma has offered to help me get to the town of Carmel tomorrow where they can X-ray and set if it is broken. If just sprained, then wrap it up and let’s go. Either way, I want to know and have a pro stabilize it. My plan is to still ride out of here. Biggest bummer is I am not going to do the alternate loop now. Just does not make sense. But a great excuse to come back.

    Here is Thelma in her office as I give her the “I’m OK” and thank you.

    PXL_20210419_171219589.jpg
    GringoRider, LM15, scudo and 41 others like this.
  13. Hill Climber

    Hill Climber Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,303
    Location:
    Kaslo BC summer, Yuma AZ winter
    How's MechanicO's ego? Bruised?
    I've had similar experiences with previous hot weather, oil rising to the top of the tarmac surface and coupled with wet roads makes for surprising events. The "grease strip" down the center of the lane is also worthy of note during rain storms. Perhaps they may have played a role here?
    Hopefully the x-ray will be good news and no broken bones. To minimize wrist pain, shifting gears without using the clutch (or so I've been told) whilst under way doesn't hurt the transmission, if done properly. You probably know this already, but here's a link for others that wonder about this.... https://packupandride.com/clutchles...s no damage to your motorcycle's transmission.

    Ride safe on your journey north...
  14. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town... Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2016
    Oddometer:
    1,739
    Location:
    Here and there... but more there than here
    I had a an issue with one of those fresh pavement edges yesterday near Cardenas. I crossed it at too shallow an angle and the rear tire “grinded” the edge a few feet. If it had been wet and slick I’d have gone down for sure.

    And I echo Jamie and Animo’s exhortations to cross over the mountains. Fabulous twisty roads versus the flat tropical farmlands along the coast. Hope you’re not too banged up.
  15. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2007
    Oddometer:
    4,709
    Location:
    Okie near Muskogee
    Xilitla is a must stop to see Sir Edward James gardens at Los Pozas.
    Sorry to hear about your off, sounds like it could have been much worse.
    eakins, Cal and simmons1 like this.
  16. Tagman

    Tagman Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Oddometer:
    159
    Location:
    Durango Durango, Mexico
    I have enjoyed your report, if you come through Durango (We moved to Mexico from Salida Colo 10 years ago) let me know and you have a place to stay. We have plenty of room. I have also noticed that you have the mirrors sold by the company my daughter in law sells from Colorado. We have not seen mounting brackets like yours. Where did you get them?
    ScotsFire and glittleman like this.
  17. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Oddometer:
    2,959
    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    Damn @FinTec - just caught up on the adventures since getting off the boat, sucks about the off man. I hate wet pavement in most instances, but if it hasn't rained in a while, all the crap dropped by vehicles makes it especially treacherous. I'll never forget hitting a huge patch of asphalt sealant as I came out of a corner during my street riding days just as rain was starting to fall. Slick as ice and I high-sided when the rear tire reconnected with blacktop. Bike was a total from the flip; I was just sore (one of those AGATT peeps).

    It's great to read about getting back to Freedom Shores and making the decision to hang there while also getting your wrist checked. I hope there's nothing broken and resting a couple days extra makes the ride north easier. Not that you'd head to Oregon on the way back to CO, but if you end up doing so, have plenty of space southwest of PDX.

    Look forward to what comes next, with fingers crossed on the visit to the doc.
    Golden955 likes this.
  18. ozmoses

    ozmoses persona non grata

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2009
    Oddometer:
    48,711
    Location:
    Blo,ME
    Damn. Great report right up until this last bit.
    Hope you heal up quickly.

    This makes for great daydreaming as I sit for my 15 minutes post COVID vaccine observation.
    :thumb
    ScotsFire and bigjohnsd like this.
  19. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    880
    Location:
    Lowlands
    Damn, that sucks. But on the upside, better after than before Cuba.

    I guess it had been dry for a while and that rain mixed with all the oil residue on the pavement. Slippery as snot, a classic recipe for mayhem...

    thank you for taking us to Cuba, really enjoyed your tales and pictures.
  20. Essbee

    Essbee none

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2009
    Oddometer:
    387
    Location:
    Southern Cape, South Africa
    Bummer about your off. Brilliant RR, Fin, really enjoying it, thanks.