This blog will be the place everything about our trip gets thrown. Think of it as kinda like a toilet, eventually everything we do will end up here, useful or not.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
So, it has come down to this. Two bikes in the back of a 10 foot Uhaul van heading northeast from Baton Rouge La.
We always had planned that we would head into Texas and skirt across the bottom states, turn up the eastern seaboard and go as far as winter would allow. We had no idea that winter would catch up to us in Baton Rouge. The last day of riding, 180 miles or so east from Sealy Texas, was simply awful. The wind and gusts and heavy heavy rain were as bad as riding gets, with temperatures around 40 F.
We stayed the night in Baton Rouge , pretty much exhausted from the day riding. We felt a bit wimpy about being a couple of Canadians with our butts kicked by wintery weather in the southern US. But you can't ride in snow, and riding below 40 F for over 2000 miles is slow going and less than optimal.
In the morning we looked at the weather channel, the PC, maps, etc. There was no was to get around the snow and rain that was hitting Atlanta, Knoxville, etc. So, we were faced with staying put for two or three days and hoping for better weather, or renting a van and making tracks. We rented.
We drove straight to my brother's in Annapolis Md, ( and his wife Michelle and son Jack (they were going to name him Tony after me but wanted somehow that changed to "jack", huh? i dunno.. He is also my godson, so if anything happens we will all be calling the little guy TONY)).
Now we plan to drive the van to Houlton and go from there. Perhaps we will take in a hockey game in NY tomorrow ( Sid and the Pens are playing the Rangers).
Riding a van is warmer, but less cool. Turns out we do get along while traveling and being able to talk to each other. Who would have thought?
We'll be home on Saturday or Sunday likely. I plan to sleep for a few days. And get a hair cut.
Where to start. After a couple phenominal days of riding the best roads yet, and cruising through Mexico with our eye on the border to the USA, we stopped just east of Monterrey for some lunch and a last look at a Mexican town. After snapping a few pics and checking out the local market, we headed just a few blocks looking for a taco stand. After all the crazy roads, stray dogs, donkeys, night rides, cattle horses and everything else that should have hit us, I get tuned by a Ford F-150 while heading for lunch.
I was almost stopped, with my turn signal on when from outta nowhere, I get glimpse of a grille in my mirrors. I tried to maneuvre, but really had no time, next thing I knew I was punted forward, flying, then grinding into the tarmac. I got a good look at the under-carriage of the Ford and when I came to a stop, the Ford still seemed to moving forward. I sprang up right away (I think I did, but it seemed like right away) and did the bike-racer reaction of getting the hell off the road to avoid getting hit by anything else. That was the second panic moment, as I had no idea what else was coming and knew I just had to get the hell out of the way. I ran (stumbled??) to the side of the road and sorta fell over and grabbed onto a pole and mentally took stock, wiggling toes (obviously working, but hey, the brain works in funny ways) and kinda did a checklist of things that could or should be broken, smashed or missing. All seemed OK, so I only had one more thing to do while still wearing my helmet. I let out an impressive string of expletives that shocked even me, and I eat F-bombs for breakfast.
Then, I looked over at Silver laying on her side and saw Tony coming arounf the front of the Ford. From there, it is kind of a blur, but people came running out of the taco stand, sirens were ringing, and the greasy fuck that hit me got out of his truck.
Silver starring down her attacker. The bike was facing this way, Tony just stood her up. Notice the greasy fuck's snake skin boots.
The cop, some witnesses and me holding my ouchey.
Those are my tire marks on the road, all kinda random knobbie scraps. The bike flew and tumbled, then dragged. Notice how far he rolled forward before he stopped. His skid marks were about 20 feet long.
Bent, bruised, battered, but not beaten. The whole ass-end of the bike is moved over about 6 inches, including the exhaust, cases, fender and luggage rack. This is gonna be expensive.
Hardly a fair fight.
Bent wheel. There is a good ding, and the whole thing kinda wobbles. Kinda feels like a KLR now. Ha!
The crashbars, doing their job.
So, once the dust settles and I calmed down a bit, then the nogotiations started. See, in Mexico, they have Napoleonic type law, where you are guilty until proven innocent. The greaseball started going on about how much I will have to pay for his truck and what the hell was I doing and blah blah blah. Everybody who saw it was on my side, but turns out the cop that shows up was friends with the greasy guy, and it also turns out that the greasy guy was the mayor's son or something. Even though he was clearly in the wrong, we could tell that things were not going our way. I was pretty optimistic as I called Allstate insurance to go through the motions, since I was assured prior to departiure that I was covered. This went from bad to worse when five minutes later, Allstate called back and informed that I wasn't covered and that the best thing for me to do was get the hell outta there. Nice agent, eh ? I will deal with then upon my return....
So, not letting on that I just found out that I am uninsured (an offence in Mexico, unless you are buddies with the cops), I was finally I was faced with a decision. We could either impound both vehicles and wait for the insurance companies to come and inspect them, or part ways. The translater (a German fellow that was also a biker - clearly on my side) looked at me and said " I would get the hell outta here if I were you; this could get very ugly for you". Nuf said, so after a couple hours of "negotiations" we headed for the border as fast as possible.
The bike was crooked, but rode OK. It kinda has a hitch in her hip as it rolls down the road. It has since developped a small coolant leak and some new rattles, but seems to be holding up. I smashed my head pretty good (good helmets save lives) scrapped my arm up, jammed my wrist pretty good (clutch hand - now skipping 2nd, 4th and 5th gear...) and have various bruises on both sides. Tony was great as he dealt with stuff while I was dazed, pumped me up with advil and cleaned my wounds.
We crossed back onto US soil later that evening at Laredo and got a hotel. I followed Tony the whole way to Laredo as I was jumpy and nervous and all I could do was follow his lead. It was a horrible ride as I am usually confident on the bike. I don't even like thinking about it.
Back at Hank's in Texas, we gave the bike a good going over. New tires and an oil change (we actually planned that) and lame attempt at straightening the bike...I am gonna need some hydraulics or somehting once I get her home. It was great to see Hank again and we hung out there all afternoon. Hank listened to our stories and we listened to his (he has been hit there a few times) and we met Pat at the shop, who ended up putting us up, feeding us and letting us watch hockey and do laundry at his place. It is cool meeting these great people on our travels, they totally make up for the very few arseholes out there... All's well that ends well, I guess!
I felt better on the bike today, but I am still a bit jumpy. Hopefully that will work itself out.
It has been a little while since the last update. We are back in the US, after a couple of long days covering over 1000km through Mexico to Laredo TX. The ride included mountains, an impromptu mountaintop meal, a last night of Mexican food, and, after almost 10000 miles and only 2 hours from the US border, Pete being hit by a Ford F150. (More on that from Pete)
We headed to Victoria which included one last crossing of the Sierra Madres. The shock for us was that we hit cold air, starting one day at 50F. For the first time in over a month jeans were worn under our riding pants and the jacket liners were zipped in. The scenery was great, and near east of Mexico City there was snow on the mountain tops.
At one stage I stopped to take a picture of a bus stop. ( see pics). Once off the bike a couple of women approached and asked to take my picture, offered coffee, called their friends over, etc. Seems not to many people stop at this spot. Pete arrived a minute later, and soon we were offered lunch. Seems that the ladies had a little side of the road food stand and were drumming up business. If you stop you are a potential client. We ate their offering (not sure what is was). It was tasty, and we paid 10 pesos ( 80 cents) for three something-or-others. The ladies drummed up business and cooked us lunch for less than $2.
We spent out last night in Mexico in Victoria. Pete wanted one last Mexican meal so we walked over to a hole in the wall and ordered some sort of chicken thingy. It wasn't bad. The good news is that we both spent over a month in Mexico and Central America and didn't get sick, against most odds.
After Pete was drilled by a real greasy Mexican hotshot we kinda looked forward the getting to the US, and took the toll road from to the border. The zip across the desert was very very very windy. We hit the US border tired, hungry, gas lights blinking, and badly needing to do laundry.
After a night in Laredo we went to Dilley TX to Hank's place ( MotoHank.com) to change oil and tires. Hank is great and was there on a Saturday to help. The Suzuki VStroms didn`t miss a beat through hot, sometimes dirty and long days and were in need of a look over. ( I couldn`t wait to get the knobby tires off, Pete love`s èm).
We met a guy named Pat Kelly at Hank`s. Pat is a BMW rider and was getting some work done by Hank. Pat insisted that we stay with him in San Antonio that night, so we did. He actually took us out for dinner and offered his two rooms ( He said he preferred the couch). Pat was great. We used his laundry, hot coffee in the morning, and he even escorted us out of town to the highway ( I10 east).
We headed east with an eye on the clock, hoping to be settled by 2:00 local so we could watch the Canada - USA Hockey game. We were the only ones in the Best Western in Sealy Texas and watch Canada strike gold. Was there ever a doubt
Tomorrow - more east - toward New Orleans.
Snow covered Mexican mountains
Representing the country during the Olympics, actually nobody in Mexico knew anything about the winter Olympics but most had heard of Canada
When the hillsides are this steep the bus stops need legs
Roadside streetmeat stand
Lunch (don`t ask too many questions) but it was good.
Gloria, Angela, Susan, and their lunch customers
Ladies from the hills ( lunch village stop) The one on the right kinda made me a bit nervous. Not sure why.
One last Mountain pic.
Our host, Pat Kelly, in San Antonio just prior to morning departure.
Today we rode 500 km toward Peblo Mexico over the twistiest mountain road I have ever seen. On the first part we went over 225km on the bikes to cover 80km as the crow flies. The second part was on an amazing toll road through high mountains c/w fantastic bridges and road building. Sides of the mountain were carved away for the road and there was one tunnel. What a great place to ride a motorcycle. It is as good as riding a motorcycle gets, and as good as riding in a strange, large, impatient Central American city is bad.
We did that today too, in Oaxaca. At one point a four lane road ( which the taxis turn into a six lane road) criss crossed at a street light so , for a few blocks, you were driving on the wrong side, UK style. Then back again at a light. Everybody knew what was going on except the two Canadian fool on bikes wearing their protective snowsuites in the 100 degree heat. Did I mention the taxis? Nuts.
The weather day was perfect in the mountains, a few clouds to break up the sun, and it even was a little cool at our highest point today ( 7000 feet +). The bikes acted a underpowered at times in the thin air.
Tomorrow we skirt around Mexico City (crazy place to drive) and head northwest toward home.
One more shot of Antigua. That is a volcano over the street arch.
Rugged mountains south of Oaxaca. depending on the elevation were were in there were cactus ( roadrunner style), shrubby trees, or just a little grass.
Picture of road curve taken from a 'rest stop'.
This is a cropping of the sign in the picture above, warning of a dangerous curve in 200m. Note that the curve in front of the sign didn't get a sign as it was typical of the road. The curve that we were warned about went around a peak and curved almost back on itself.
Entering the dry plains near Pueblo. This place is dry and hot, not much can grow.
This post was originally published in the 'route' link. so much to keep straight......
Yesterday we visited in and arounf Antigua in the morning, and in the afternoon took a tourist bus ( the same type that we have been dodging on our bikes for weeks) to a volcano. The bus took us to elevation 1900m, and we climbed to the 2600 m lava flow. There were horses available, but we opted to scale it on foot. This meant also trying the near impossible task of avoiding all the horse crap on the path.
So Pete and I, and several busloads of people climbed up and down the volcano. It was quite interesting, if not a very natural or ' man against nature' type of setting. The lava flow was great. They don't have too much in the way of safety rules here, so dozens of people were walking around flowing lava, on rock that was very hot with lava flowing undernear (you could see it in the cracks about four inches below your feet). The bottom on my sneaker got very hot, on ladies footwear melted. She tied on a makeshift sole and limped down the hill.
This morning we will head to the Mexican border, cross over, and look for a hotel that carries the Canada/USA game tonight. Heading north, leaving CA and entering North America, and looking for a hockey game... just a couple of regular Canadian guys.Antigua street with a volcano in the background
Antigua, where you sometimes don't get far without somebody offering something for sale. The variety of goods and the presentations were fun to see.
Shoe shine boy, Antigua
The bottom of the hardened lava, which we climbed over to get to the flow. It is a bit tricky to navigate this stuff.
Hi All, We made it back into Guatemala yesterday after a relatively easy border crossing out of El Salvador. A days rest, some surfing and beers on the beach does a body good after 4 weeks on the bike. El Salvador was great, very lively, beautiful beaches, cool people, and cheap to boot. I would go back in heartbeat.
There are some new videos posted, for Costa Rica and Panama. Check them out on the link to the right if you aren't sick of the bike-cam yet! Cheers, Pedro.
After leaving Nicaragua and spending one night in Honduras we are now taking a break in El Salvador. We feel pretty confident now about the border crossings and don't use any 'helpers' unless we want to get to the front of a line.
When entering Honduras there was a bus load of travellers than were all using a helper, this guy had a stack of passports 4 inches thick. Trouble is he was ahead of me in line. Just when I thought I should settle in for a long stand a second window opened up. Some official guy came running in saying our bikes were in the wrong parking spot. Wrong spot? It is a free - for -all out there so how can one spot be wrong? Anyway 'no problemo', I got my passport stamped while Pete moved the bikes.
Of all the entry/exits Honduras is the worst. It is the most expensive, slowest, and you never really know what you are paying for and where the money really goes. Of course that is by design by those working the border.
We rode into a seaside town ( see the route maps, I can't spell) and searched around for a place. Seems we are white. Seems that doubles the price. There weren't too many options but we did find a decent place on the ocean. I had my doubts though, we rode around the washed out bridge and down a single lane dirt road c/w chickens and dogs and barefoot kids before finding a nearly empty 'resort'. It was quite acceptable. We went into a little town up the beach for dinner, where young men ran out to us and told us of their fantastic menu. All the places were empty so we were it for business opportunities. Hmmmmm, ever wonder what others might know if you are the only guys staying in a hotel and eating in a small town??
The road into the ocean town was 20km or so of downhill twisty road. It was banked well, full of potholes, loaded with trucks and sometimes cattle.
We entered El Salvador two nights ago and headed for a place called Costa del Sol. We heard it was nice and in a good spot for our day plan. Unfortunately it was not in a great spot ( hard to find) and we ended up getting there late. I think it was our first night riding into a town well after dark. We did find a place that was fine, good food and a spot to stash the bikes. There were kids in the streets working for the two local hotels and swarmed us when we stopped the bikes. We choose a place, but when we got to the front 'desk' it turned out the price would be double as the rooms had only one bed. Now Pete is a good guy, but...... . Rather than loose our business we got two rooms for the price of one.
Pete's A/C worked. Pete's door closed and latched. Mine...not so much. But I did have a free pet in the room. I felt a bit of a tickle on my chest in the middle of the night. Half awake I grabbed a cricket-like crawler off of me and tossed it to the corner. (I assume it was nesting in my manly chest hair). I just hope it was a female.
The town of Costa del Sol was really neat, but not a touristy type of place. It is a working beach, we watched men land their netted catch from their small inshore boats at breakfast. Fish dried in the sun in the narrow, dusty streets. Men fixed fish nets and chicks, roosters and ducks roamed free. Parts of the town looked like they were used as a backdrop for an El salvador civil war movie. They people were really nice as I walked around, glowing brightly in the sun. An old man told me his life story, none of which I understood.
We moved on up the coast through La Libertad and to a funky little surfing town called Tusco Beach. It is one of the best surfing spots in CA, and has some development but is low key. The streets are dirt and there are surf shops and places to eat and stay. We took a cabana on the ocean for $25.
The reason the surfing is so good here is because there is a 'point break' meaning that the big waves break on a point and curl along the beach instead of just crashing all at once. I now know this, and all the surf terms, 'cause decided that we had to try surfing and we are super cool guys. We each got an instructor and a board for $15 an hour.
My guy spoke no english at all. There were no insurance forms, very little beach training, no starting on small waves, just out to sea with a 15 year old kid that could surf on a popcicle stick. Rookies like us get 'big boards', harder to twist and do all the cool things but easier to get up on. I was spent from carrying this thing to the water. Good surfers are good swimmers, have narrow waists and broad shoulders and guns for arms. Hmmmm, No, no, no and nope.
After paddling out my guy got all excited all of a sudden and pushed my along a wave while screaming spanish. He might have said "this is for what happened to my sister", I dunno. I paddled like a freak and tried to remember any Beach Boy video. The Hawaii 5-O theme song was playing in my head. I push up to stand and flew off the board with arms and legs all over the place. I got pounded. I resurfaced happy to be alive. Then I learned that when the waves crash they usually come several at a time. Another wave rocked my world, more white water. It was brutal.
A few crashes later I realized that my guy was trying to tell me to not stand up, ride a wave in for 20 seconds on my belly, then kneel until the wave ends. So I did, man it was great. I harnessed that bad boy all the way to the beach. Which is a mistake. I guess you are supposed to jump off before the beach 'cause the final wave crash throws the board around and people loose teeth and things. I didn't, luckily.
A few more rides and standing attempts followed. I met Pete and we watched guys make it look soooooo easy. We were both exhausted and hurting from the paddling and wiping out.
I did actually stand up for a bit late in the hour. Maybe three times for 6 or 8 seconds each ( it seemed like 1/2 hour but I am sure it wasn't). Maybe I should do it again today.
We have ten days to get to Texas, which should not be a problem. Maybe we will spend a night or two in Guatemala before entering Mexico on the Pacific side.
Sorry to Mrs. Robertson ( grade 10 english ) for all the spelling and typos, I kinda banged this out quickly and have no spell check.
Twisy mountain road in Hounduras.
Local taxi on twisty mountain road.
An Active volcano in Honduras. When riding, especially Honduras and El Salvador, volcanos just appear around the next bend all the time. It doesn`t get old.
Every country ( almost ) spray the bikes at customs. It is kind of a joke though as they half-assed spray part of the bike. I guess no nasty bugs would be on the other side of the wheel. This is the hose down entering El Salvador.
Customs made the driver and helper of this banana truck dig deep into the pile of bananas to proove, I assume, that all he was carrying was fruit. If you get a bruised banana it might have come from this truck as they were treated a little rough.
Just after opening at the market in Costa del Sol, El Salvador.
Working beach, with fishing boats and hut for living in.
This is how the locals finish off riding the big waves.