Posted on August 19th, 2010 11 comments
Yes, the KLR, Kawasaki’s Moto Around the World Motorcycle. Perfect for Central American Tours, no? Just in case you hadn’t noticed….we got two. One for you and one for your best riding buddy. In this case, one for Steve and one for Karl, two (just got to be) experienced riders from Reno, Nevada. Hallelujah….
23 June 2010… I’m awake and just laying there in the air. Must be three in the morning, pieces of prep stacking up in the dark for me to examine one by one. Copy passports, documents for the bikes….don’t forget extra keys… something between a dream and a to-do list. I get up and make coffee. Not as good as in the lobby but you know… they’re not open.
The guys came in last night without luggage but cool as the drink in my hand. We walked to a restaurant on the lake by where I’d been staying and got to know each other. The luggage came in about 10:00 PM and made today possible.
Today: I paid our motel bill and we slipped into early morning traffic heading south. We crossed into Matamoris by 8:00 AM. After Migration, Aduana and a money exchange, we were on the highway with a whole new tour in Mexico and points south. Together we adjusted to our seats and our seats to us. The first day is watching the tack to match RPM, Speed, feel for vibration, anything lose or just riding the damn motorcycle.
They exchanged bikes once I think, each settling into what fit. The green KLR interested me most. Both used bikes with three to nine thousand miles, I wondered about the lowering of the green one with links, forks up in the triple trees and a seat cut near in half. This tells me something about the previous rider… But then the handle bar risers and forward cant said he may have been tall from the waste up. A higher windscreen confirmed this. Karl looked hidden behind it. I had given him an air pillow but much later, in Costa Rica, I noticed it leaked down and may not have helped at all. In this way, our day passed and we duly arrived late in Tampico after some interesting traffic interruptions. There are no photos to document the restaurant or our near lavish accommodations. Just know, we toasted our first day well into the evening and slept like giants on a small planet.
Day two….recording events of interest as we ride. Suffice it to say we rode rolling hill, twist and peeks at beaches, lakes and grand rivers that rolled big and wide. Mexico is one of those places like our own South West… but still somehow living…painted in broad strokes and left for us to ponder through the centuries at it’s beauty. The point of these tours is just that you can’t photograph it all… it must be ridden through in such a way that you’re in it. Thus, the motorcycle and a guy like me to take you there.
Veracruz, Mexico: When you get there you’ll know. It’s a cross between the Riviera and Tulane. I’d been there before but at night and tired. This time we arrived early and found our hotel, a dinner special and a few drinks across the street…
We loaded up the next morning and headed out to Oaxaca using a route I’d been warned would be “too twisty”. It was, but we all agreed it was a good twist. I forget the altitude but it was over a very high mountain range and we needed to bundle up. A pea soup cloud kept the road wet and there was a rounded pebble kind of texture to the pavement that made one uneasy about traction. Still, we were moving along in a sporty manner…not one where you’d expect to have a car pressing from behind…but there was…
Sorry, no photograph… here let me paint you one…
In fact, this generic late model Japanese car seemed anxious to pass; we were in his way! Having fallen many times in the wet, I know how fast it happens, especially if you lose the front. I made some manly dashes at the turns and quick checked my mirror….he was there, dogging my riders behind, driving one handed I thought; the prick, the other holding a laté. I congered a string quartet in his deep surround sound cabin… little finger stuck out from his plastic cup..
I thought to myself how stupid it would be to fall here… and pulled over for him to pass. We had to be up around eight thousand feet or more, my bike didn’t want to run and I had to slip the clutch often in the many tight turns. ….also I was having this disturbing lower tract problem…. having nothing to do with the bike or the mist or the altitude. You know you’ve made a friend if he’ll hold your bike while you scamper into the woods…Karl Hall is just such a man. The scampering lasted about three steps. A forth would have fatal consequences since the ground stopped and didn’t begin again for a few hundred feet down. Woods, too, is a euphemism… cars passed, I smiled politely. I’d never see them again… though they may see me…like a car wreck far into their lives…
Along with this and about that time, we stopped for gas and a break. These tours bring about a change of diet and are often accompanied with liquid fortifier in the evenings. Taking a page from Mexican desert racing etiquette, “never pass gas… never trust a fart”. What may not be a regular thing up home, can be regular as regular gets south of the border. So while attending to rule #1 at the pump, I thought I’d step into the men’s room for …ahhh #2…. must have been in a hurry because I put my five pesos into the wrong box and opened the wrong door. I believed the woman standing there was a cleaning woman. She thanked me. I was happy to help out you know…
Upon leaving, however, I realized the error of my ways…people were laughing at me and the woman was just getting over a mood.
What looked like a short trip on the map turned out to be a long and twisty one that took us to the brink of beer. Quickly we went from rural roads to teeming Oaxaca, the capital of the state of Oaxaca… one of those famous names that filtered up to the states in the ’60s… “hey, I got some Oaxacan…” “Wul, ya ber let ‘em out…”
I know full well that we didn’t see the town’s beauty that day. We just ate and crashed. It would be nice, next time, to spend time exploring.
Heading down the mountain towards the West coast and the port of Salina Cruz, a short interruption occurred to pay Karl a karmic favor… Seems a nail lept up and buried it’s head just far enough to pop the tube. Times like these a guide earns that umbrella drink later in the day…
But you know, one thing leads to another. I’d never have noticed this constant expression of Love if that karma wasn’t owed just then… you don’t have this sort of thing happen in front of a TV. As my friend George says, “your next two weeks is routine. If you take a tour like this, it’s two weeks you’ll remember for the rest of your life.” Well put, George….
Beauty is finally accessible to a middle age motorhead. We stopped for gas and there it was…
We took pictures, wouldn’t you?
New country to me… we came to this town…. “The World Capital of Mezcal”, Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca.
Where we loaded up with supplies that would last deep into the expedition.
Unlike Hollywood flicks, your movie includes quiet breaks… the occasional car goes by…
… sometimes not much up, till you look at the sky…
We ride all day till we hit rain in Salina Cruz, a port… not a resort. Still, we follow our noses and arrive at this comfortable hotel. The owner asks his right hand woman to walk us to a restaurant he’s sure will treat us right. All in all it was a pretty good port in the storm. …reason enough, not to plan your life.
Next morning we’re down the road and making time again. I’m hot to find a way around Tuxtula, a beautiful city; but two weeks is just a smorgasbord of Mexico and Central America. One may go back for many helpings. San Cristobal is on the Menu this evening…
We arrive in the rain. The farther South we go, the more into Central American “Winter” we sink. It doesn’t help that this area has been lashed with hurricanes, mud slides, volcano eruptions and earthquakes over the last few weeks. It was a messy ride up from Costa Rica to Texas. Now we were going back. There would be more ahead… At last we arrived, semi dry again, in San Cristobal de las Casas.
Yes, an Extra Day… They explored….
After diner we found a jazz bar, “Revolution” just a couple blocks off the main square. We met an international group of happy young people. One borrowed my shoes to make this trick….
Then there was the music…two groups, one right after the other… Cool Jazz, good or better than New York or Paris. Tight as bands come… subtle and precise… powerful and moving, I’m ready go back. This town rocked in the off season… Wake in the morning and walk into the street …soft music leaking out one or another espresso shop… I’ll take you there….
…after coffee, croissants and internet… more tourists pictures…
RSR, (rested, sober, riding) towards the next border… Guatemala! Land of Mayans and dark skinned Leprechauns. We arrive a little after noon. The idea is to make Antigua before nightfall. We make it… but not before nightfall…not without rain.
There we soon were… across the border and on our way to that great crossroads in the mountains, Huehuetenango (Who-Who-ten-ango) and beyond. If you really want to see what we saw, take a ride, with or without me, but see Guatemala if you can!
We rode through rain and the schlock that it brings. There were mud slides that took as many as three lanes of a four lane highway. As it grew dark, the “Seasoned” part of Seasoned Rider came out and Steve and Karl stuck with me until we arrived tired and sore in Antigua.
A one night stand, there are miles to cover and I know I’d better get these guys to a beach soon…. knowing the next stop wouldn’t be either, I got us out and on the run for Honduras. But first we needed to get through Guatemala City and points south.
Karma isn’t over till it’s over… One more flat to prove the guide is still up to it. We’re almost to Honduras and the sun is slipping off to the west….it’s looking like rain. We set no records but a new patch was slapped on and we were off to the border of Honduras.
Flats fixed, an easy crossing into Honduras and a light rain to bless this great long day. Cattle came to greet us with lights on….in Copan.
After a hurried change of clothes, we hunt down the seldom forgotten Umbrella lady…
The guys went to see the ruins in the morning. I lagged behind to find a fresh, un-patched tube and had it installed.
photos of the Mayan Ruins.
We were up early and headed south with no funny business… Using new routes and improvised global positioning, we made it to the Southern Honduras town of Danli, by nightfall. Fall we did, after a brief stab at dinner and a beer. We slept in an opulant new hotel and were the very first to wrinkle the sheets there….they said. We were up again early and crossing the border into Nicaragua by nine in the morning. In fact, that may have been our first coffee.
Copan was a two night affair. We took many pictures. You would too, if you were there. Photos are the stars that outline the big dipper. The story is what you carry with you. When I’m done with one of these accounts, I realize my customers have their own; each a star in his own story. Look me up….I just may have a costume to fit…
Off we rode, eating the miles of Nicaragua. We zoomed through Esteli and kept a torrid pace till we came to a smoky old hag called La Masaya. There’s a saying in Spanish, “cada loco con su propio thema”, this means “every goofball with his own theme”. Everyone, sooner or later gets to see the Gash. Each takes his own photos and she puts on a different show every time. This is today…
Still breathing sulpher, we wind down the mountain, and head to our last stop for the day, Granada, the prettiest ex-capital of Nicaragua. This is one of those stops that keep me coming back. There is a long history with Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Some good, some bad and some silly; but the beauty shines through in the architecture and the people. Some pictures….
The next morning we mounted up and cranked our dusty steeds into life… My rear tire was almost gone, my chain hung down like grandma’s teets and I had no interest in adjusting it. We were only days away from home so I let ‘er slap. They say horses move faster when they get close to the barn… but I was still having fun with these guys and we had a couple fun stops ahead. Look… more pictures….
Twin Volcanoes popping up from one of the worlds larger lakes… You can sleep at the base of these puppies. Sharks patrol the waters; Army, too. We stop for a couple shots…
Ridden hard and put away wet, we arrived in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, our last stop before crossing into Costa Rica. This was a two day R & R beach extravaganza. God has always known… we deserved it.
We sat and laughed like this till the sun went down. I know they complain to their wives, they all do, feeling guilty for having a good time with the guys. We’re as predictable as dogs….
I was glad they’d booked a couple free days after the tour. I could have taken three more right there. I know this sounds boring and you’d rather read about me fixing a flat in the rain….or caught up in a drug war gun battle; but I’m re-living those mighty fine days as I write this and look forward to another couple best friends. Here’s what we saw…
The evening progressed past the point of taking pictures. BUT… the next afternoon just rocked.
To bed early and up in the morning for an easy ride to the border. We rode up the short hill where Christ watches over this special beach. It began to rain, fitting for a ride into Costa Rica. It didn’t stop all day.
We ate lunch in Libera… just across from a Burger King. Customers look upon me with disgust, but I’m tired of “Typical” food. Gimme some junk Gringo Burgers! The rain erupted again in a grand gully washer that left us glad to be under roof.
We slogged and sloshed our way down the Pan American highway, secure in the knowledge we were done with borders, if not rain, and that we’d be in Jaco by nightfall. We were, too.
The way to end a perfect trip…. a dip in the sea and the beginning of recuperation from a long ride. We spent an easy morning over breakfast and left when they threw us out. We rode slowly to see the crocks…. been there a million years… will be for another million… We, on the other hand…
You know how in the movies they have all the goof-ups at the end? Sometimes scenes cut from the movie that didn’t fit? I have a ton of photos without a place to go… Here’s a few of them.
Mild Mannered above… a responsible citizen with dreams and family like anyone else….
But hidden in the pit of his valiant soul….lives THE GREEN HORNET… who rights the wrongs and keeps the light of freedom and the American way lit for those of us who merely follow. It takes time to mature into something real, whatever it is… another reason not to trust anyone under 40….