Retired and Riding (Temporarily on pause in Northern New York)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by danisOTR, Jan 13, 2020.

  1. danisOTR

    danisOTR Living Life on the Road Supporter

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    There is a long back-story that goes along with this report. I'll filter bits and pieces in along the way otherwise this first post would be very long and I may lose your interest.

    The quick synopsis is that Mrs. OTR and I retired in September of 2019. We sold all of our furniture put the rest in storage in Mrs. OTR's sister basement and we took off.

    We have been planning retirement since a European motorcycle tour in June of 2017. That got the wanderlust in us piqued.

    More background to follow.

    We decided to start our travels in Mexico. Initially it was based on cost. Upon research we decided to head to the Yucatan with the end goal being Merida.

    From the border this is a several day journey. I was not able to find a lot of information on ADVrider about the Yucatan or the best route to get there. So we started planning. I posted in Trip Planning and followed the "Is Mexico Safe" thread. We got a lot of good feedback. Sjoerd Bakker has been specifically helpful. We bought his books. But in addition he wrote us a several page email about our proposed route. We are currently following that. Details will unfold as we go.

    So here is the first day with us crossing the border and getting to our first town. I'll drop photo's in later but there are not many of this day.

    Point to note we are both on BMW 1100's. Mine is a 98GS and Mrs. OTR is on a 2001 1100R. Both are fitted with Jesse Bags and we are both carrying Wolfman Bags strapped behind us.


    1/11/2020 Saturday


    Today we cross into Mexico and the next part of our adventure begins.


    Mrs. OTR and I made it across the border today at Anzalduas and have arrived at our first night’s accommodations. Crossing was smooth with a lot of back and forth at immigration to “register” both the bikes and us into the country.


    We left immigration and got on the highway through Reynosa and quickly found ourselves heading south on RT 97. This connected us with RT 101 the. 180. Overall we rode 200 miles today.


    Driving is a bit different. The roads we were on most of the day were 2 lanes with a lane on the outside so you can yield to vehicles passing in either direction. There were almost no speed limits signs posted and most of the time we were doing 70MPH and mostly getting passed.


    We saw countless Police and Federale’s patrolling the highways. Many were in pickup trucks with troops in the back or a 50 cal machine guns mounted on top. I think it made us feel safer once we realized we weren’t getting stopped and searched.


    Around an hour from our destination we stopped to rest and try to get some fuel but the pumps were not working. The distance to the town that we are in was at the maximum of our fuel range. We have been having high fuel consumption due to the heavy winds we faced over the last few days. Also at this stop we realized that Mrs. OTR’s Camel Back had fallen off her bike. It had her prescription glasses and sunglasses in it. Hopefully that’s all.


    We headed out hoping we’d make it or hopefully find gas along the way. Checking my GPS I saw that the next fuel was at the end of our route for the day. My fuel light went on around 30 miles before where the gas station was marked. Usually reserve is close to a gallon which would have been enough to get us to town. Mrs. OTR’s light came on shortly after. We cruised alone at 60 hoping to get to our goal. Unfortunately I ran out. 4 miles short!


    The funny thing about our BMW’s is that the tank is almost split in 2 which means that the right side of the tank where the pump is will run dry but there is fuel left in the other lobe of the tank. So Mrs. OTR and I layer my bike on its right side for a moment and then lifted it back up. Bam, I now had a 1/4 tank of fuel.


    We pushed on the Soto La Marina where we fueled up and went in search of our hotel. I had gotten a book from a fellow rider who has put together a list of motorcycle friendly hotels in many of the towns in Mexico.


    We checked in at Hotel Chicago which cost us $25 for the night. It’s a good one night hotel but not a place that we’d want to spend any more time. The bikes our parked outside our door and covered, making them invisible to most eyes.


    We found Restaurant Tampico right on Rt 180. Mrs. OTR had a shrimp plate and I had a mixed grill. We were out of there for $20 with tip. That was with 4 beers.


    I’m ashamed to say that we huddled down in our hotel and did not go back out. Foolish as there was a Saturday night carnival one block away.

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  2. danisOTR

    danisOTR Living Life on the Road Supporter

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    1/12/2020 Sunday


    Today we rode a few hours to Tampico. We went through changing terrain. All on Route 180. It is interesting to go miles and seeing nothing and then find a “house” sitting by itself in what appears to be the middle of nowhere. We rode through a couple of “towns” and we experienced tope’s in multiple locations. Some were not bad and others were pretty extreme. It is fortunate that we were following cars so we had advanced notice.


    Just before getting to Tampico we went through an area where there is an overpass but it was shut down. Don’t know why but the bypass was rougher than any other roads we have experienced since we have been travelling.


    We continued to move along with traffic and were able to fuel up before we got to our hotel. We took a short toll road which bypassed the city and brought us closer to El Centro where out hotel was. The toll was .75 but well worth it.


    When we got off the toll road we went through a residential area to a connector road. This dropped us at the wholesale Mercado which is a road that paralleled the railroad tracks and shipyard. It was bustling even though it was a Sunday. We were full on into city traffic which was crazy with taxi’s and cars with everyone beeping their horns and taking every advantage to turn, cut in front of you etc.


    The GPS kept on making us turn left than right then left. This repeated a few times. We got out of that mess and made a few more turns only to find out that the entrance to our hotel was on a square with no vehicle traffic.


    We turned right to the indignations of the cabs and cars. We pulled to the left curb and stopped to reconnoiter. Within seconds another rider pulled up next to us and asked where we were from. I communicated that we had a problem. He pulled over in front of us and with his limited and my nonexistent Spanish he figured out what our problem was. He went to a Police officer that was at the corner and explained the situation. He then walked with me to the hotel and asked the desk clerk where the parking was. We had passed the entrance. He then came with us to the parking garage and explained to the attendant that we would be coming around to park. Back at the bikes he took some selfies of us and left.


    The police officer at the corner stopped traffic so we could cross three lanes of traffic to our right so we could go around the block. We got back to the garage and the attendant set us up in a corner spot.


    We unpacked and covered the bikes and carried our gear to our room. BTW the hotel is $48 a night with a continental breakfast. It is right on Plaza de Armas which is “El Centro”. Our room overlooks the plaza. It is a Sunday and the place is packed. I headed out to a nearby OXXO where I bought a 6 pack of beer and two large bottles of water for $5.


    After unpacking and a shower we hit the street and started to explore. We walked around the Plaza and on the side streets. There is another plaza nearby called Plaza de la Libertad. It was also packed.


    The streets are packed with cars taxi’s and buses. If they aren’t beeping their horns they are the odd ones. The taxi’s beep to say they are available, get out of my way and who knows what else. Crossing the street is however you want to do it. There are no signs and stops signs for the cars isn’t even a suggestion. They are totally ignored.


    One of the blocks adjacent to the Plaza de Armas is closed to traffic. It is like Church Street in Burlington, VT. But Church Street has never been so busy.


    We wanted to find a place to eat and watch the street. We found Restaurant Tampico that fit the bill perfectly. It was on the second floor overlooking the Plaza de la Libertad and had balcony seating. It was buffet style for $7 per person. We spent less than $20 for lunch with some beers including tip.


    It was around 5 and we were heading back to the hotel but stopped in what we thought was a convenience store for more beer. Well it was a full on grocery and the store just went on and on. We found a nice bottle of Tequila for $13. We got some limes and seltzer and a bottle of wine. All in we spent around $20.


    As we got back to Plaza de Armas things were picking up. Remember it is Sunday night, a school night. The place is packed with families. A band is setting up right in front of our hotel. Hundreds of plastic chairs are being set up around what was to become a dance space in front of the band.


    We went to the room and made ourselves a couple of tequila’s with lime a soda. We headed back down to the plaza to people watch. Behind the bandstand there were “clowns” entertaining the little ones. People were in chairs and sitting on the low concrete walls. Lots of street vendors.


    The band started up around 7 and played Mexican dance tunes. Dozens of couples immediately started to dance. Not like Americans. They had real dance moves. People of all ages were up there.


    We were standing back from the fence surrounding the dancing area and a gentleman tried to engage us in conversation. We tried our best but it was mainly smiling and nodding our heads. There was another couple sitting near where we were who got up and started dancing.


    Mrs. OTR grabbed her phone and using Google Translate complimented them on their dancing. They were thrilled.


    It was close to this time that the gentleman we were standing near reached over the fence and grabbed us a couple of chairs for us. We sat and enjoyed the rest of the show which ended at 8:30. People hung in until the very end. But within 30 minutes that plaza was basically clear and all the chairs picked up.


    Since we have been here we have not seen another American or any other nationality save for one Asian woman. However, we have not felt uncomfortable. Most everyone have been very nice even with the language barrier.


    As I am typing we are sitting on the Plaza in front of the hotel. We have 7 National Guard members standing in front of us. They are ignoring us although it is VERY obvious we are tourist. But again it does not make us feel unsafe, just the opposite.

    9B9427BE-79BA-4DBF-AC9F-9A478E8ABCC1.jpeg 7BB9694E-C130-4DE5-9BC9-5CF2578BDA12.jpeg BE849299-FEDC-4B8F-B6D2-A80D2D1D37DE.jpeg 30135B76-854F-4A70-BC0C-BB70B23FE587.jpeg E527DC5A-2827-4278-A614-49A3503BFE75.jpeg
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  3. manshoon

    manshoon Been here awhile

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    :thumb IN.
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  4. Omar

    Omar Muddling thru Supporter

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    Pretty descriptive and Very interesting write-up. love it. Keep up the good work. I know Linda and I will be following you daily.

    Please do add pics when you can. Such as a simple one of you and Mrs OTR sitting at a cafe, and a pic of what you see from there.

    Safe riding.
    #4
  5. Omar

    Omar Muddling thru Supporter

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    Thanks for posting the pics. Now I get the flavor of the place.
    Omar
    #5
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  6. danisOTR

    danisOTR Living Life on the Road Supporter

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    1/13/2020 Monday


    Tampico


    We got going this morning and helped ourselves to the continental breakfast here in the hotel. We decided on a little exercise today an went for a 3 mile walk around Laguna del Carpintero which is around 6 blocks from the hotel.


    That short 6 block walk was a study in contrast. Some very poor houses, abandon structures and in the midst were some solidly middle class dwellings. Those were surrounded by high walls and heavy steel gates. But the houses were nice and the small amount of property was very clean.


    Speaking of cleaning. Something we’ve noted is there is a lot of it going on all the time. When we were in Soto La Marina the shop owners were constantly sweeping the front of their shops. They were also washing the steps and sidewalks. The hotel was the same way including the parking lot which was paved. In Tampico the public areas are spotless. There is always a team of people cleaning the square. The sidewalks around the area are also pretty clean.


    Back to our walk. We also passed the side of the Cathedral which flanks the Plaza. We could hear the sound of children from behind the wall. When we could peek, we could see children playing inside the courtyard. We also saw a mother handing her child a wrapped pastry through a gate.


    The lake is very large. The walkway is paved with benches and workout areas along the path. There had been a fair of sorts going on recently and the carnies were tearing down.




    There was a butterfly garden with flowers to attract them. It was well maintained but not a lot of butterflies.


    The lake is inhabited by alligators. There were lots of them. Some were pretty large. At one point we ran across a man who was talking to one on the other side of the low steel fence. In his best English he told us that this was the largest alligator in the lake. He seemed to know a lot about the creature and actually told us his name but neither of us can remember what it was.

    View attachment 2083504


    There were also turtles that reminded me of the painted turtles we had as kids but these were huge. Also there were large iguana’s.


    View attachment 2083504

    People were using the path for walking, running and exercising on the equipment along the sides. There was also a zipline that went over a section of the lake, thus over the alligators. No thank you.


    There was a bridge that spanned the lake at the midpoint. On the other side there appeared to be a convention center. The path on that side turned to gravel and headed into a wooded area. We decided it was best to backtrack.


    We retraced our steps but took another street to go back the 6 blocks to the plaza. On this stretch we noted much the same as the other street we had walked down. But I also noticed how many little “convenience” stores there are as well as little eateries. There are often a couple of each on any small block.


    We went back to our hotel and I grabbed my computer and we went down to tables out front and sat where I wrote our exploits from the previous day. The plaza was a buzz of activity. Here people are out an about sitting and visiting on the plaza. There are not at home watching TV. There are not on their phone. They are sitting and watching or chatting with each other. Remember this is Monday. A work day.


    At around one we asked the young lady at the desk for a lunch recommendation. She directed us to a small eatery right on the plaza. It was an open air affair with some tables inside under cover and several wrapping around the wall of the outside. As we walked in the door one of the cooks was preparing food right in front of us. She was working on tortillas with other ingredient’s. We decided to sit outside and found a banner with a lot of their food options. We sat and a waitress brought us menu’s, all in Spanish and no pictures. We did our best and picked out some meals. It took a few minutes to communicate with the waitress what we wanted and what type of tortilla Mrs. OTR wanted for her Taco Pollo.


    That done we continued to watch the activity on the plaza. Mrs. OTR noted school children in uniform walking with or being walked by a parent. Overall most children under 13 were in the company of a parent. They didn’t appear sullen as most American kids would be. Again none had “devices” stealing their attention. They seemed happy!


    Our waitress pushed two plates to Mrs. OTR through the open window rather than walking outside to deliver. Not an issue but we thought it funny. We waited several minutes for my lunch to arrive. As we waited I started to think that I really messed up and had ordered pickled carrots and onions as my lunch! Fortunately our waitress arrived with my 4 Gordino’s. Which were tortillas, stuffed with egg, potato, chorizo and one other meat respectively.




    We settled in to eat and continue to people watch. We were approached few times by people wanting us to buy either chocolates or other sweets. They were pretty much dissuaded by a wave of the hand and a “no”. There was only one person that I needed to be a little firmer with during the entire day, but overall no one was too aggressive.


    We finished our meals and as we are learning waited until we were “done” waiting and I went to find our waitress for out bill. $7 including tip. Nice.


    I had seen many people walking and eating ice cream. Actually there was a Dairy Queen down the block. I got a hankering for a cone myself. We chose a local shop just steps away from where we had lunch. Two double scoops on waffle cones, $2.


    We walked a bit more and looked at the local architecture. There were plaques on buildings some had English translations. They went through the history of the buildings, the various uses, when they had been rehabbed. Some were in poor repair but were still in use even if on only occasional basis.


    There are homeless people around. Many pick through the trash looking for returnable bottles. But we didn’t see people just laying down in public places. One of note that got Mrs. OTR’s attention was standing next to a rack of returnable coke bottles drinking the remaining contents that the original buyer had not finished.


    We found ourselves again sitting in front of our hotel people watched. We mixed ourselves come cocktails and sipped them and enjoyed the contrast to US life.


    At dinner that evening we heard our first English being spoken by four men in an adjoining booth. They were from Louisiana. They were working on diesel engines down in the shipyard which is a half a mile away. Short chat but it was nice to have ease of communication.


    This was the first expensive meal so far. Two entrée’s and six tequilas (high end) was $44. We won’t let that happen too often. However at home that would have cost us $120.


    We watched Netflix in our hotel for the remainder of the evening. The next day will be a short travel day.


    On Tampico:


    Mexico, especially this area gets a bad rap. The only information I was able to find about Tampico was negative, violence, kidnapping, rioting, etc. The only reason it stayed on our list is because Sjoerd Bakker had recommended it in a way. Our whole time here has been relaxing and enjoyable. We have not felt at all unsafe. Admittedly we did not wander too far out of El Centro and maybe some may think we are not really experiencing this city. But we want to see what places people want to see. Maybe act in some way as another voice against the negative. I would recommend anyone heading along the coastal route to stop by. I would recommend that you find a hotel close to El Centro to experience some of the culture and highlights.

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  7. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    Excellent posts amigo! Excited for your travels ahead. Your statement about the kids appearing happy - I found that generally most of the residents in the countries I traveled through, despite apparent poverty in many places, seemed happier than most US folks I know...
    #7
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  8. Omar

    Omar Muddling thru Supporter

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    Great blog ....I am ‘traveling’ with you both vicariously. Your remark about cleanliness and happy children was illuminating. The view I had here was, unfortunately, not that. That’s why travel Puts things in perspective, as opposed to the slanted views one gets (or at least I got) from articles and movies.

    Pity about the poor picking thru trash, Makes me very sad, just been reading the same kind of thing in Los Angeles and New York. Europe seems to have overcome this problem.

    Keep writing the blogs, I am really enjoying ‘following‘ you guys.

    Ride safe.
    #8
  9. JPCollinsworth

    JPCollinsworth Compulsive Spender

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    Subscribed! I'm looking forward to following your adventure, and I'm counting on it to keep me out of the flea market.
    #9
  10. st1100y2k

    st1100y2k Adventurer

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    Y'all may want to take a side trip to Celestun. It is about an hour west of Merida on Route 281. Rita and I stopped there a few years ago to see the Flamingos. There are millions of them.
    #10
  11. Vrode

    Vrode Not going there Supporter

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    Great blog! I'm in.
    I'm hope you won't mind me living vicariously thru your adventures here in the frozen VT tundra.

    Ride safe, have fun, be cool!
    #11
  12. danisOTR

    danisOTR Living Life on the Road Supporter

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    We are planning on spending some time there. Thanks for saying it’s a good spot.
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  13. danisOTR

    danisOTR Living Life on the Road Supporter

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    We rode from Tampico to Papantla today. 150 miles in 3.5 hours. Beautiful all the way. More to follow on the roads and scenery.

    We scored an AIRBnB for two nights. $38 TOTAL.

    Tomorrow we’ll visit El Tajin. It will be our first visit to an archeological site. Really looking forward to it.

    Now time to find some Cerveza an ATM and a place for dinner. Mexican anyone?
    #13
  14. GraceDuffy

    GraceDuffy n00b

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  15. danisOTR

    danisOTR Living Life on the Road Supporter

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    I promise more when we get WiFi. But here is the town square, El Centro in Papantla and other pictures from the rooftop of our AIRBNB. We’ve already extended another day and know we can stay until Saturday if we’d like.

    IMG_1973.jpg IMG_1974.jpg IMG_1975.jpg IMG_1977.jpg IMG_1978.jpg IMG_1984.jpg IMG_1980.jpg
    #15
  16. Cal

    Cal Long timer

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    Your descriptions bring a smile to my face as these descriptions are why I travel Mexico! You are like a child in a candy shop and I mean that in a good way.
    #16
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  17. steinVT

    steinVT Just a rider

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    Subscribed! I like this format so much better than Facebook. Thanks for the link. - Mark
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  18. Ignis

    Ignis n00b

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    Thanks for the invitation to join Mr and Mrs OTR! Great summaries. I am inspired that you chose Mexico when I often hear how unsafe it is. You see otherwise! Love to you both, stay safe, and ride on!
    #18
  19. Omar

    Omar Muddling thru Supporter

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    Looks like Papantla is some 700 plus miles south from San Antonio, covered a lot of ground. Which way are guys headed? There is Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama. Will you try to hit them all?

    Linda spent time Costa Rica and loved it. We have a club meeting on Thursday evening. It might be fun for us to call you and put you both on speaker phone, you can give us verbal update. I bet the boys and girls here will be thrilled. How about that? Is the cell phone you have operable there?

    I am, as I am sure others are, awed by your trip. Nice pictures. Gives us an idea of the unique environment you are in and going thru.

    Ride safe.
    #19
  20. danisOTR

    danisOTR Living Life on the Road Supporter

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    Some quick picture or ElTajin. Words can’t describe. Dozens of buildings. Incredible architecture.


    1/15/2020 Wednesday


    Today we headed to El Tajin the archeological ruins nearby.


    https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/631/


    Our host had recommended a breakfast location a few minutes ride away and we plugged that into the GPS and off we went. Sygic does not play well in Papantla. Left turn right turn left turn, etc. If we had stayed straight we would have gotten there. But no worries the place was closed.


    Reprogram to El Tajin. Again, left, right, left again. Traffic. Topes that we were bottoming the bike on. It took us 10 minutes to get out of town but it seemed like and eternity. Although only a few miles away it was a 20-minute ride. There were actual curves and switchbacks.


    We had read to arrive early and that we did. The site opens at 9. We were there at 8:30. As we approached the site we saw innumerable vendor booths. Most were still not open. A woman whom we thought was part of the site directed us where to park. EMPTY. She followed us and was able to communicate to us that it did not open until 9:00 but she would direct us to a place to eat breakfast. Score, for her I mean.


    She lead us across the booths to one of the very few places that were open. Looking at the booths there were a number of them all identical but all separate. There had to be a dozen or so.


    We sat and were given menu’s and again presented with our first problem of the day, what to order. I picked an egg and chorizo plate, because I knew that those two words mean. Mrs. OTR ordered something that ended up looking like egg soup. She says it was picky (spicy). Breakfast came with tortilla’s. Mrs. OTR ordered café con leche, which she really enjoyed so much so that she ordered another.


    We ate a leisurely breakfast and found ourselves noting that it was already 9:30. Time for some culture.


    We paid out $4.00 admission and went inside. I will not attempt to describe. I’ve already posted many of the pictures on the fly while we were there. As stated, before it is indescribable. One should not miss an opportunity to visit this site. We ran into another American couple, amazing as that sounds, who stated that they have visited many Mexican Archeological sites and this was the biggest and least crowded. There were numerous times during our visit that we were all alone without another person in site.


    More to follow as the evening begins.



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    #20