"I've Been Everywhere, Man" Living the song on two wheels.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by swedstal, Jun 5, 2017.

  1. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Remember when I used to ride places and talk about motorcycles and stuff? Yeah, me neither. This RR has definitely been lacking some Annie recently.



    Time for some good riding! As much as I enjoyed having my parents with me, driving in tandem is a bit like hauling a long trailer. For every lane change I always tried to ensure that there was sufficient space for both of us. I spent a lot of time with my eyes in the mirror.

    My decision to take the SE road out of Monterrey, meant that I got to ride a great stretch of road that cut through one of the many mountain ridges. Route:

    [​IMG]

    My time on the fun road began wet and foggy. This this dampened my throttle a little bit, but not my enthusiasm.

    [​IMG]

    I saw shadows around one of the many bends and instantly found myself in a sunny day. I was surprised how quick it changed. Somewhere during this stretch (I missed the exact moment), Annie rolled over 50,000 miles. Hooray to our heroine! Half a hundred!

    [​IMG]

    This road was absolutely wonderful. The surface was in good condition and the curves were well banked.

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    I pushed my gas a little farther than I should have and probably came within 5-10 miles of running dry. At the station, a guy walked over and asked, “Mil doscientos?” (Literally “1,200”, he was asking about the engine size). When I responded that Annie had just a 670cc engine he said, “Oh, I thought you’d have a bigger engine since you are such a big guy.” I’m still not sure how I feel about this comment. :-)

    The rest of the route was uninspiring highway driving through mostly barren countryside. I could not fathom how many people I saw, even in the middle of nowhere, selling things by the side of the road. They seem to sit there all day, often times with their kids, waving at traffic. This is not a “hello” type wave, it is a palm inwards beckoning motion which begins as soon as a vehicle is in sight. I don’t know what they are selling, but it’s obvious that they have very little.

    This was a long day in the saddle (about 360 miles). It will be a rare occasion that I will attempt this many miles in a day in Mexico or Central America. There are just so many variables at play that can slow one’s progress. Despite the number of miles, I still arrived in San Luis Potosi around 5pm.

    My place for the night would be a hostel recommended by my friend @vicmitch in New York, Corazon de Xoconostle. The cost was just under $10/night. A young lady named Alejandra was working the desk when I arrived. She spoke English very well and helped me with a few of my Spanish questions. She got me set up with a bed and made sure I had everything I needed. This was my first time in a hostel in Mexico, so it was great to be welcomed so warmly.

    [​IMG]

    She said I could bring Annie inside the courtyard, but I could not make the turn into the door from the sidewalk. “It’s like a bus,” was Alejandra’s comment. :lol3

    I had my choice of beds in the bunk room and chose the one on the top. (I’m scared of depths.)

    [​IMG]
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  2. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    This will be more of a cultural post:


    I was a bit tired from my long day riding, so I did not venture out in the evening. This ended up being a great decision, since I got to have a wonderful evening in the hostel.

    [​IMG]

    First up, I met a guy named Carlos. He is a web developer from the state of Sonora (just south of Arizona). He lived in the US for a few years so his English is perfect. We probably chatted for 2-3 hours about lots of different topics. I came away with a much better understanding about some Mexico-specific things.

    A few notes:

    When people ask where I am from, I had normally been responding with “Nebraska” then explaining where it is. Part of this is that I generally identify more as a citizen of my state than as a citizen of my country (I don’t think this is uncommon in the US). The other part is that there is really no good demonym for people from the United States. “American” (or “Americano”) could mean anybody from Alaska to Argentina. “Estadounidense” (literally “State United-ian”) is the most common term in Latin America, but it is a tongue-twister and still not very specific. I’m currently in a country called The United States of Mexico.

    All that said, Carlos thought that introducing myself with my state may come off as being a bit egotistical. This means that I will need to work on my pronunciation of “Estadounidense.” :-)

    I also asked him about the geographical designation of Mexico, whether they consider themselves as being North or Central American. He said that they prefer to group themselves with North America, to “be one of the good guys.” This was good to know, since I had been grouping Mexico in with Central America.

    We talked about the use of the formal case in Spanish, something that can be difficult to grasp for English speakers. He taught me the term “rebuscado” which basically means that you are overusing the formal case. “Pedantic” might be the closest English translation.

    I also learned the word “enchilado” which does not exist in English. It basically means that you have had too much spicy food, that you are “spiced out.” I really like this one.

    He was so incredibly helpful. It is really important to me to be able to approach people in foreign countries with humility and consideration. Americans are maybe not always the best at this. The first few phrases that you use with someone can solidify their perception of you. Understanding the culture and conventions is vital.

    We were joined later on in the conversation by Alejandra, who was still on staff, and Jorge, a cultural anthropologist who lives in San Luis Potosi. The conversation shifted back and forth between English and Spanish, which was really good practice for me. They were so kind and really made me feel welcome.

    [​IMG]

    They gave Annie some nice tattoos too. The first few signers in Mexico have used English, so I encouraged them to write them in Spanish. Annie should be bilingual by the time this trip is over. The quote Jorge used connects well with the trip.

    [​IMG]

    I’m sure I’ll translate it better in the future, but here’s my first go: “It does not matter how much you know, tell me how much you’ve traveled and I will tell you how much you know.”
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  3. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Friday, December 29th

    I slept in a bit before beginning to venture out to see San Luis. I was planning to stay a second night at the hostel. I’m planning to take it a bit slower, especially during this opening phase. Taking time to learn the language and culture is much more important than making physical progress at this point. Here is some of SLP:

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    “Trade in your weapons for money.”

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    Though there were lots of nice things to see, I found myself frustrated with a couple things. One internal, one external.

    On the internal side, I was still having a hard time adjusting to being in an unfamiliar place, culturally speaking. Probably the main reason for this was my struggles with the language. Multiple times I would see some street vendor with food or something else interesting, but I would avoid asking about it because I wouldn’t know the exact words to use.

    But this is not really an issue of language, is it? It’s more an issue of pride and laziness, things that cause me much more worry. Breaking through this barrier will be vital both for my development and for my enjoyment. I’m not sure why I’m struggling with this.

    Another frustration was that I was having issues with my phone. I am using a service called Google Fi, which basically allows for regular phone use across any borders. It has been blinking out sporadically, not connecting to any mobile network. I probably spent a good two hours on the phone with support and trying other things.

    Ok, back to happy thoughts!

    I did get quite a bit done this day and met some more friendly people, so I can’t say it was a bad day.
  4. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Saturday, December 30th

    I got another great night of sleep. I think there was only one other person in the dorm room, which made it easy to rest.

    A couple and their daughter, whom I had met briefly the previous night, were at the table eating breakfast so I asked if I could join them. We spoke no English during the conversation, which was really good practice. I hope I made some sense.

    The parents, Yaer and Sandra, told me that their daughter, Fer, had written out a whole page of questions that she wanted to ask me. She was a little shy with the gringo sitting across from her this morning though. They were wonderful people and it was really nice to get to know them. I was just going to eat something simple, but they shared some freshly cooked eggs and some other things.

    They got to sign, of course:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I never really considered myself as looking like a stereotypical American until I started taking pictures standing next to Mexican people. :lol3

    Oh, I almost forgot my favorite thing about the hostel: They have a bathroom which is designed exclusively for skinny people!

    [​IMG]

    …that other door actually does open, it just took me awhile to figure it out.



    We’re getting there. Little by little. Each day I tell myself, “Remember, you will never speak Spanish as poorly as you do today.” I hope my ability to communicate and connect will just expand as I go south. Thanks for coming with me!
  5. Romero

    Romero At Cinéopolis or OXXO

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    All good!! and remember....I also live in Santa Fe NM...see you soon!!
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  6. Davidprej

    Davidprej Davidprej

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    Two things surprised me on my first visit to Mexico. The poor (beggars, sellers of trinkets) and the trash. I guess no one takes pictures of trash or the poor, so, in retrospect, this should not be a surprise that it was a surprise. But I share your view about the language. I really, really, really wished I had learned more Spanish as the people wanted to connect and I was unable to due to my poor language skills. Still glad I went, but next time I will study the language and get much more out of the trip.
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  7. B10Dave

    B10Dave Long timer

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    "Thanks for coming with me" No Brett; it is the other way around. Thank you so much for taking us along. Travel safe and far and enjoy it all....Dave
  8. GHOC

    GHOC FNG

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    Hey Brett, can you expand on this, "Carlos thought that introducing myself with my state may come off as being a bit egotistical"? I don't get it. If you were saying you were from Hollywood or Beverly Hills or something, then I would understand. But naming the state? No entiendo.
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  9. GregDavidL

    GregDavidL Been here awhile

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    Yes, the poverty and trash in Mexico can be overwhelming at times. My ex-wife is Hispanic and I was able to travel in Mexico among the locals. It is totally different than the tourist areas. If you go to say - Cancun, everyone speaks English and accepts/expects US Dollars. Not so much among the locals, some English and use Pesos. I always enjoyed being down there, but there are times when it hits you that you're not in the US anymore.
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  10. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer

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    "“It does not matter how much you know, tell me how much you’ve traveled and I will tell you how much you know.” Food for thought, for sure.

    Your attitude is outstanding. At 63 I'm thinking I wouldn't have the same fortitude to really connect with people, like you are. I'm learning a lot from your approach. I'm so bad at just keeping to myself, and just getting on the bike..
    Go Chiefs!
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  11. vicmitch

    vicmitch Been here awhile

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    Brett, I can identify with the issue of feeling uncomfortable when asking a question turns from being nothing to being a possibility for you to end up getting an answer that you don't understand and looking like deer in headlights, a very tall deer. Once you accept that you will never just blend in and you will need to get by on the kindness of others from time to time, you'll be fine. Glad you enjoyed the hostal.
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  12. viajero

    viajero Too old to be a nOOb

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    Glad to see you are enjoying Mexico and hope you like San Luis Potosi. Way back in the mid '60s I lived there and also spent a lot of time on a couple of ranches nearby. Fond memories, for sure. Lots of good people there.
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  13. Davidprej

    Davidprej Davidprej

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    Just to be clear, in case other potential MX riders are reading, the poverty and trash were surprises, but not overwhelming in that they in any way dominated my experience. The overwhelming experience was of the unique culture, generous people and beautiful scenery. I see what you are saying but I just wanted to clarify my experience. Appreciate your insight.
  14. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    I'm loving all of the discussion, everybody. Thanks for all of your thoughts.

    One way or the other! It doesn't look like I could avoid you even if I wanted to. Do you have a summer home in Ombabika as well? :lol3

    To address the trash issue, I have a theory that I'm working on: I believe that trash has a greater gravitational attraction than other matter and is thus pulled closer to the equator. I first noticed this when travelling in Italy. The northern third is spotless, but becomes pretty junky the further south you travel. Additionally, the American South has the greatest accumulation of road trash in the US. (Just an observation). I'm expecting by the time I get to Ecuador, I will be forced to plow through large piles of rubbish to make any progress.

    This is how you science, my friends.

    :thumb

    Thank you, sir!

    Yeah, this probably needs a bit more explanation. I think introducing yourself by such a specific area may come off kind of like: "America is so important that I expect everyone to know its geography!" Perhaps if I was from a more recognizable locale, like California or New York, it would be OK to use that. But I would bet that less than half of all Americans can find Nebraska on a map. The word "Nebraska" means even less to an average Mexican.

    Maybe it would kind of be like a Mexican person in America introducing themselves as being from Colima or Tabasco. I'm sure very few Americans know where those places are.

    That's the best I can make sense of it at this moment, pero no entiendo mucho! :hmmmmm

    Attitude is always something we can choose, I think. Though I often still find myself choosing the wrong one, I want to keep improving in this area. I've had some great examples of people in my life who have proved that attitude is an independent entity from circumstances.

    Sorry to go all philosophical. :-)

    This exactly. I will sometimes have a conversation all planned out before approaching someone. But as the great poet of our generation, Mike Tyson, said, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."

    "A very tall deer." I love this. I've been thinking of adopting a more Spanish sounding name while I'm down here. "Brett" can be a bit of a struggle for people. "Venado Alto" sounds pretty cool. :lol3

    There still are. It's a neat place.
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  15. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Buckle in, everybody. Lots of words are coming your way. I was in Guanajuato for less than 24 hours, but had about a weeks worth of experiences. :-)



    Saturday, December 30th (cont.)

    I departed San Luis Potosi and headed to my next stop, the city of Guanajuato (it is a state as well). It was not going to be a long ride, but it was one that I was really looking forward to. The final descent into Guanajuato is known to be an excellent riding road.

    La Ruta:
    [​IMG]

    Most of the way was fairly uneventful. I did find an abandoned church that was pretty neat.

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    As Guanajuato approached, I could tell that the road was going to get exciting. The city is built down into a valley, requiring lots of zigging and zagging to get down to it. The path did not disappoint.

    [​IMG]

    At a restaurant near to Guanajuato, I saw a few dozen motorcycles parked. It looked like some sort of rally was going on. Shortly after seeing this, I caught up to a group of three of them (perhaps a sign I was riding a little too fast). :ricky The first one waved me by and I continued in their pack.

    [​IMG]

    They were good riders and seemed to know this stretch of road well. I enjoyed following them down into the city. Once we hit city traffic, they weaved on through and rode out of sight. I’m still a little uncomfortable riding between traffic like the locals do.

    At the first gas station in town, I saw my riding companions. For a moment I hesitated.

    “I still suck at Spanish. What am I going to say to them?”

    But the brotherhood of riders certainly transcends any sort of language barrier, right? That was what I was hoping for at least. Thus begins the story of how I met Bajaj, Miguel and Edgar, my new moto-family.

    As soon as I pulled up, they seemed instantly interested in Annie. Bajaj spoke pretty good English, so we could fall back on him when my Spanish failed. Soon, unbeknownst to me, we were broadcasting live on facebook.



    You can hear Bajaj ask if Annie is an Africa Twin (do I look that rich!). My Spanish is me explaining that I already have too many English signatures on the bike, so I need them to sign in Spanish.

    [​IMG]

    These three gentleman are part of the group Naked Riders Irapuato. Over on my blog, I made sure to explain why the people in this group were wearing so many clothes. I don't think I should have to define what a "naked" bike is here. :lol3

    Irapuato is a city just up the road from Guanajuato.

    They were excited to sign Annie, writing some nice things.

    [​IMG]

    “My passion, to roll. My mission, to return.”

    Miguel pulled one of their club patches from his pack and gave me a questioning glance. “Por favor!” I said excitedly. Miguel had to clean off a spot with a rag and then use super glue, but I think he got it attached well.

    [​IMG]


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    Bajaj is from Argentina, so we had a good time talking about my route and considering different options.

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    I really love the above picture, because it perfectly sums up Edgar’s (on the left) personality. He is the kind of guy who holds a map when it is windy, waves you ahead of him on the road and always has snacks for the whole group in his pack. I don’t think he uttered a single word of English during our time together, but I feel like I know him well.

    L to R: Bajaj, Edgar and Miguel:

    [​IMG]
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  16. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Bajaj had to take off, but the other two guys offered to take me on a tour of Guanajuato. How could I refuse! This would be the end of the English speaking portion of the day, meaning the rest of our time together would be both fun and educational.

    [​IMG]

    Guanajuato rose to prominence due to the abundant resources found in its mountains. Gold was already being mined here in the mid-1500s. In the 1700s it was the richest city in Mexico. This intersection of geography and resources is felt in the unique design of the city. Every street is winding and narrow, many are not wide enough for vehicles (….foreshadowing). Additionally, many of the main traffic routes pass through tunnels underneath the city. I’ve never been anywhere quite like it.

    Edgar, Miguel and I stopped at a scenic overlook of the city from the north side.

    [​IMG]

    I mentioned what I had read about Guanajuato’s mining history and they asked me if I wanted to go down into one. Again, how could I pass that up!

    First we stopped at the La Valenciana church, which is right by the mine.

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    It’s not a huge church, but it is abundantly adorned with the riches found nearby.

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    All three altars are covered in gold.

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    If taking selfies in a church is a sin, hell is going to be a crowded place.

    [​IMG]

    Then it was down into the mine. The entry fee was only a few bucks, but Miguel insisted on paying for all of us.

    As we waited in line, we had some nice basic chats. I felt like I was really struggling with my Spanish this day, so I did not get to know the guys as well as I would have liked.

    Down we go!

    [​IMG]

    Our tour took us 70 meters below ground down steep, uneven stairs. Our tour guide was full of personality, but I must confess that I did not compute most of what he was saying. I’m pretty confident by now in finding a bathroom in Spanish. Understanding explanations of mining techniques? A little over my head still.

    It was still a lot of fun though. :-)

    Breaking rocks like I break hearts:

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    But my tour was not over yet! We still had a couple of scenic spots at which to stop.

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    We then wound our way up to the best panorama of the city. The place was packed. The views explained why. A couple of panoramas:

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    It was finally time for my tour to end. All told, I think these guys spent about four hours with me. I don’t know if it was how they planned on spending their Saturday afternoon, but I hope they had at least half as much fun as I did. It is now a requirement that any trip I take through Mexico passes through Irapuato. Thank you Miguel and Edgar!

    [​IMG]
  17. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    As much fun as I had with the guys, I was starting to get a bit worried about time. As I’m still getting used to a foreign place, I like to have my lodging for the evening set up around 3 or 4pm. It was now 5:30pm. I had reserved a hostel in the center of the city the previous day, so I wasn’t too worried. Turns out….I maybe should have been.

    The first thing that threw me off was that my phone had stopped receiving a signal again. I was counting on it to navigate to the hostel. “No big deal,” I thought. I just found the address and plugged it into the offline navigation app on my other phone.

    Oh great. I’m only 2 kilometers away.”

    90 minutes later, I was still on the bike. Did I mention the road system here is a little crazy? Knowing I had such a short ride, I didn’t even mount my camera so this journey will only be documented with words.

    Traffic was thick, being that it was Saturday evening the night before New Year’s Eve. When I finally “arrived” at the destination of hostel, the GPS re-routed and took me on another long ride. I rode on some roads so steep that I needed to flex all the muscles in my arms and chest to keep from going over the bars. There were also some wicked topes.

    Topes?

    If you've ridden in Central America or even read RR's of others travels there, you probably know what I'm talking about. If not, let me try to explain:

    “Tope” is one of those Spanish words which does not have an English equivalent. Some might say that “speed bump” is a decent translation, but that would be akin to translating “bazooka” as “pocket knife.” They are in the same category, but are miles apart in intensity.

    Topes can sneak up on you in Mexico when you least expect it. Though the majority are marked with signs, the truly malicious ones attack when you least expect it. In the US, the punishment for speeding is a fine. In Mexico, the punishment for speeding is the destruction of your vehicle.

    Topes. Expect to see this word often. :thumb

    On one of the narrow, cobbled streets in Guanajuato, one of these concrete Kilimanjaros (I totally need to trademark that) caused me to bottom out, scraping Annie’s undercarriage as I went over it. I think this was the first time in our 50,000 miles together that I’ve ever bottomed Annie out. Thankfully, the oil pan was undamaged. I would not end up like the derelict VW Jetta on the road to Ombabika. (Back on page 6. Wow….that was a long time ago.)



    When my GPS encouraged me to take the same long loop again, I decided to park Annie and continue on foot. Soon I realized my folly: The hostel was not on a vehicle road, it was on a pedestrian road. Perhaps this is still a sign of my Nebraskan bias (What do you mean I can’t drive there!?), but it was a pretty big mistake.

    Even on foot a had a difficult time locating my lodging place, but I eventually tracked it down. The people there were really nice and showed me my place, both staff and other guests tried to direct me to a parking garage where I could leave Annie for the night. Not an ideal solution, but it looked like the best one at the moment.

    I returned to Annie, who had attracted the attention of a gentleman working in a law office near where she was parked. He actually has family in Saskatchewan and visits there often. He spoke great English and helped direct me to the nearest garage.

    More hills, more topes, more traffic congestion; but now it was completely dark too. I found an entrance at the top of the garage that was blocked off so I parked Annie again and jogged down four flights of stairs to the main, subterranean entrance. I explained my situation to the attendant (in shockingly proficient Spanish, I might add). He grimaced a bit and pointed to a sign that said motorcycles were not permitted in this garage. Ughhh….. They were not willing to make an exception, but at least tried to point me to the next garage.

    Jog back up four flights of stairs, more topes, more hills, more traffic congestion. I was taking some tunnels to the next garage so my GPS was even more unreliable. Mercifully, I finally found it. Unmercifully, it was the same story. No motorcycles allowed. The attendant there said he didn’t think any of the garages accepted them due to “security” risks.

    OK. What do I do now?

    Miraculously, the data signal on my phone had returned. I began weighing my options, even perusing some satellite imagery to see about potential tent spots. I knew this was a bad idea. Any potentially flat space in this valley was already occupied.

    I did a quick search on the Booking.com app for cheap places with included parking. A hostel which I didn’t recall seeing before popped up. It was unclear whether or not they had a bed open, but I decided to navigate that way.

    On the way there, I realized that it was very close to the panorama that I had visited. I think I had driven right past the place about about three hours earlier. Like a shining city on hill, Annie and I rolled up to Hostal Casa Guanajuato.

    My host, Jerardo, was helping another group park their car in the gated driveway. It was kind of a game of Tetris, but finding a spot for Annie was not too difficult.

    Jerardo was really friendly, helpful and spoke perhaps the easiest to understand Spanish I had heard. Though when he said the price, I thought I mis-heard him: 150 pesos, about $7.50. Even though I was paying for two places this night, it was not going to break the bank.

    The place was simple, but I had a nice view of the city from my bed.

    [​IMG]

    …and from the shower.

    [​IMG]

    What. A. Day.
  18. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Sunday, December 31st

    Breakfast was not included in the price, but for less than $3, Jerardo would cook you something and bring it to your bed.

    [​IMG]

    It was really nice. I lingered for quite a while since this hostel had incredible internet speed. (Upload everything!) If you are wanting to see Guanajuato on a motorcycle, this is where you want to stay. I'm not sure if I'll get it done during the trip, but I plan to add places like this to the ADV Central and South America lodging mega-thread.

    [​IMG]

    Feeling like I had thoroughly experienced the city, I was ready to move on. However, I still wanted to capture a little media of the crazy road system. The traffic was much less intense than the previous evening.

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    Network of stairs leading up to ground level:

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    There’s no GPS signal in the tunnel, so I would just kind of guess which way to go until I was in open air again.

    [​IMG]



    Juat a place! Juat an experience! Juat a lot of words about Guanajuato! I’ll leave it there for this time.

    Stay golden, everybody!
  19. WYO George

    WYO George It's not you, it's me.

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    Awesome as usual (it feels like that word has lost it's meaning) One great thing about following your travels is that every place you've mentioned since Glenrock, I have taken time to google and read about, especially those with Wiki pages. Your epic adventure has been my home study geography master's course and I've always loved geography.
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  20. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Oddometer:
    629
    Realtime update: I’m staying at my first AirBnB in Puebla City. I’ll probably stay one more night here so I can cheer on the Chiefs tomorrow. I think my next stop will be Oaxaca, then on to Chiapas.