11/5/12

The role of explorers

CULIACAN, Mexico — As far as our planet is concerned, human beings have inhabited, or at least explored, nearly 100 percent of it (the land anyway). If there’s a corner here or a nook there we haven’t trekked through at least once, it’s by choice, not lack of ability.

If that’s the case, why then do we still need explorers? Do they still serve a purpose beyond the simple indulgence of personal curiosity or wanderlust? Is there still a higher purpose to be served by those who would chuck all the trappings of ordinary life and boldly go where plenty of men have gone before on journeys of an extended number of months or years?

The answer is yes…though it’s not a purpose that Magellan or Columbus would easily understand. Like GPS and smartphones, it’s unique to the times we live in…

The purpose now is to discover not where we might inhabit, but how we might inhabit.

10/17/12

A word on Guatemalan justice

It’s not easy being Guatemalan. The rural justice system here ensures that.

I’d rather be a murderer, rapist, or habitual thief any of the other places in the world I’ve been. Get caught in Guate, it’s “disenvivrement,” the Spanglish word I just coined for Mayan style justice.

It ranges from public beatdowns to public hangings. Or public burnings at the stake. Shots to the head? Quick and easy.

For indigenous folk here, the drama of it all is half the point. If Mayan hubby needs a deterant to not kill his Mayan wife for sleeping with the field hand, what better than a body purposefully left in the street or dangling for a weekend from makeshift gallos? All enforced by a mob of townfolk.

I wonder if it’s a coincidence that Guatemala’s national beer is called Gallo.

It’s an extreme example of the concept behind topos (speedbumps) in Latin America, which are largely used in lieu of speed limits. Slow your roll, or we fuck up your car.

I’ll say one thing…it’s much simpler and swifter. Potential for abuse or tragic misconvictions? Sure. But what misconviction isn’t tragic? I would say due process is more easily manipulated than frenzying a mob enough to kill someone. But in the US and similar, we’re ashamed of justice and hide behind thick walls our own version of capital punishment…the same end result, but perhaps a fraction of the value for society?

In the name of being civilized, we do relinquish much of our more primal instincts to reason and rule of law.

I guess the day that human instinct takes back its dominant influence from reason and rule of law is the day we’re no longer civilized…or that we rebel against the offending civilization.

10/10/12

Leaving Antigua, heading to another story…eventually

I’m leaving antigua in the morning, but im only going about an hour away to Guatemala City, zone 10…only a few blocks away from my computer that’s in the shop here.
I will find out on Friday if I must stay in Guat City any longer to retrieve my computer. Otherwise, it’s to either Honduras or El Salvador where they’re building brand new Hong Kong -style city states as an experiment in free market civilization with minimal government.

Social innovation it would seem.

I’ll be back with more on that at a later date.

-adam

09/29/12

A drunken ramble about nothing really

Apparently, i picked up a legitimate girlfriend in Mexico City. Legitimate except for the reality that I am transient at the moment, and she is Mexican of the finest variety.

I’m watching American college football in Antigua, Guatemala. Certainly not the unlikeliest place in this hemisphere, but an island of Americana in a country largely concerned with feeding the family tomorrow, not two days from now, but tomorrow.

This was the nice part.

The differences between the Mexican and Guatemalan markets are striking, and this is Antigua…the virtual Hamptons of Guatemala. Where the monied from Guatemala City come to play. And when I say monied in guat, i mean the equivalent of upper middle class stateside. Nice chevy SUVs. Lattes. Monoloco, this bar I watched the game at, is a retreat into an Applebees-esque atmosphere. A place where I can live under the illusion of belonging and with the pretense of comfort.

Down here, I can afford on a daily basis what most guatemalans would spend for two weeks-plus on a family’s provisions.

Is that right? No.

I guarantee you I have accomplished less in my life than the average Guatemalan. I guarantee you more people would show up to his funeral than mine.

Value is a subjective metric.

And though we may no longer be segregated by race, we still are by class and religion, which are more torrid bedfellows than you or I wish to acknowledge.

I just watched a commercial for Olive Garden. I haven’t seen one of those since Indianapolis!

Economies must reward people for value they contribute to an economy, not their location on the political map. How many fatcats sit around in America and other developed nations pushing buttons a few times a day as they cash their weekly five-figure check and log on to their brokerage account, where a bad day is a 5 percent loss on the 20-percent gain they realized earlier this year.

So out of touch. So divided. So human.

But of course, they’ve earned the right to do nothing and get paid for it. They… we have earned the right to participate in a fixed game.

Estoy American.

And that’s more than half the battle right there.

Technology is the ticket out of the disparity between third-world and developed countries. Technology. You love it, and so do I.

And suppressing technology is a new thing for we human folk. Do I have proof? No. I have instinct and hearsay. And my instinct has never failed me.

Right now, the third world has Florida State vs. South Florida on the telly. I’m going to watch and have another mojito.

Because I’ve earned the right in this sick sad world to do so.

09/27/12

Epic journeys have their ups and downs: witness my last month

Two thumpers

This white rabbit keeps the courtyard grass of my Antigua guesthouse well manicured. Two thumpers in love!

ANTIGUA, Guatemala — The landscape change in Guatemala was dramatic. From low-lying inland tropics, much of which has been cleared for farmland in the Mexican state of Chiapas, to a gentle ascension into puffy white clouds at 5000 feet on my first Guatemalan morning. After lunch, I rose another 3500 feet on wicked steep twisties, which, other than their geometry, were as nice as they were scary. Making a gentle descent back to around 5000 feet, I found Antigua, Guatemala—where I’ve been for the last week and change. Did I mention Volcanoes? One of which just erupted for the first time in over a hundred years…right in my path.

The Guatemala border was a long time coming. In the weeks leading to my successful crossing, I felt like a sharp knife repeatedly plunging into a freshly shot whitetail deer, but refused puncture.

My route in Mexico started in Ensenada, just south of San Diego. Baja was all desert and miserably hot at times, but also the start of exactly what I signed on for on this trip—new experiences.

Breaking down in the desert, of course, had to happen. If not, then I truly don’t experience Baja. Taking a hard spill on the Baja 500 course DURING THE RACE and getting trapped under the bike as gigantic 700-plus horsepower trophy trucks threatened to squash me was probably my first full-scale adrenaline rush since leaving Boston on April 20.

After a week and a half of beach camping on the playas near Mulege, Baja California Sur and a week of couchsurfing in the oven that is La Paz, BCS, I boarded the trans-Sea of Cortes (or Gulf of California as we call it in the USA) ferry for Topolobampo, where I paid my first bribe to a cop (at least I negotiated)! Wrong way down a one way. Classic-Barone-traffic misbehavior.

On the mainland of Mexico, it went:

–       Mazatlan, Sinaloa: Enjoyed sunsets and well-formulated painkillers as I nursed my badly sprained ankle back to health; attempting burn outs on a gravely Mexican gas station parking is not among those recommended new experiences.

–       Guadalajara, Jalisco: Hung out with some crazy Australian backpackers and banged an outrageously hot stripper named Fernandana.

–       Mexico City, DF: Went couchsurfing again with my new buddy Marc, who gave me the run of his Coyoacan (think Mexico City’s version of Brooklyn) apartment for a week as he flew back to the states for a trumpet gig. It was here that I met a girl named Paolina Margaret Parra, who continues to rock my world from over 1,000 miles away and counting.

–       Puerto Escondido via Oaxaca: Once again, I baked in the sun in this Mexican tourist-centric beachside retreat. One morning, I enjoyed a pleasant stroll on the beach, whose topography was brilliantly reshaped by a Tropical storm the night before.

–       Tapachula, Chiapas: A series of unfortunate events begins for the Rumble Bee. While attempting to navigate my way through the correct order of immigration administrivia to check out of Mexico, I managed to pick up a passenger—a gigantic three-inch nail in my back tire! Once fixed, Rumble Bee’s coolant thermostat seized, causing Bee to vomit like an antifreeze-guzzling frat boy all over a parking attendant’s shoes. Coolant thermostat removed, I set off again…still overheating. Tom at MAX BMW Motorcycles in New Hampshire, who’d been coaching me through the issue, informs me I best seek out professional help. The nearest BMW Moto shop was back in Oaxaca…12 mountainous hours away, which I surely would not make in this condition, in this lifetime, riding the Bee as circumstances would require: a couple miles…overheat…wait 20 minutes to cool down…ride another couple miles…overheat, wait, and so on. Not to mention the obvious strain all the constant overheating would put on the engine. That ride would surely have been the funeral procession for Rumble Bee. I chose the alternative…

–       A $1,000 truck ride back to Oaxaca: Two Mexican drivers, me, and the Bee in the bed of a brand new made-in-Kentucky F-350 flat bed for 12 hours. A professional set-up usually in the business of moving furniture. More-or-less, the limousine of emergency motorcycle transport. Very safe. It was either that or stand on the side of the road with a sign offering pesos for a 12-hour lift. Not so safe.

–       Oaxaca…Ciudad de Amore Mexicana: OK, it’s not Venice. Or Paris. It’s more like a Tootsie Pop, nice in the middle but forgettable on the outside. But…Pao showed up, and for that, I now thank the Bee for getting sick. I’m gonna keep my waxy poeticisms de Pao to myself until the book comes out, but rest assured…la chica es poesia.

–       Bus back to Mexico City to pick up a new radiator fan: Upon further inspection, the radiator fan was missing a blade and seized, so it was me and Pao on the most pleasant eight-hour bus ride of my life back to Mexico City, where I visited the largest BMW Moto dealer in the country to pick up the part I needed. I stayed with her, her mother, and niece Ali in their Tlalpan (a borough of Mexico City) apartment. I coached Ali up on salary negotiation for her first job as an architect, had some of the best huevos of my life thanks to her mother’s skills de desayuno, and of course spent more time with Pao.

Pao is the one on the left. On the right is the bard-poet-minstrel extraordinaire of Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Rey Oh Beybe…AKA Cafe Caliente (Hot Coffee). I picked up his two CD’s and his Johnny Cash-like ways have been reverberating around my head for the last month.

Check out Rey Oh Beybe’s anthem, “Cafe Caliente

Pao and I at El Árbol del Tule near Oaxaca.

I Thought I said goodbye to Pao, only to break down again: Solo, I boarded a bus back to Oaxaca, where I successfully installed the new radiator fan. Then, I got hit by a dump truck on my way to get a new rear tire before heading out of town. Thankfully, I only needed a new front rim, but that meant another week in Oaxaca, attempting to locate one. Enter my new buddy Lance from the ADVrider online forum, fearless leader of the ADV Cartel. Located near Mexico City, he had F650GS with a good new front rim and tire—exactly what I needed—and I had a bad-ass chica in Mexico City about to board a bus back to Oaxaca again to see me. Again, exactly what I needed. Pao—the tiny thing—met up with Lance, got the tire, and lugged it onto the bus with her. We had an all-too-short four-day weekend together with lots of great food, drink, and space-time continuum shattering. Long live love and The ADV Cartel!

–       Time to leave Oaxaca and Pao for real: I left Oaxaca, headed for Guatemala. I made a wrong turn, which put a few extra days on my route to the border crossing. No sweat. Wrong turns are like unexpected side dishes that come with a meal “just because the manager appreciates your business, sir.” I ended up in the oil-exporting/importing town of Coatzacoalas on the Carribbean coast of Mexico. From there, I bounced over to Catemaco, where I took a boat ride to check out some monkeys living Lord of the Flies-style on their own little islands in Lago Catemaco. From there, I made my way to Palenque, where I saw an extremely bad-ass set of Mayan ruins. A huge Mayan City of which only 10% wasn’t still shrouded in jungle. I took a photo that apparently included a UFO…or something. Here it is…

Taken while standing in the “palace” of Palenque, an extraordinary set of Mayan ruins near the Mexican city of the same. I don’t know what that is in the sky, but it was there in two consecutive photographs I took, maintaining its spatial relationship to the ruins, so it wasn’t dust on the lens. That’s all I can tell you…

–       Three days of Ruta Maya: From Palenque, it was a three-day ride down a highway that ran along the Guatemalan border, but due to insufficiently-staffed border crossings along the way, which did not include a Banjercito, where I could get the $300 deposit returned on my temporary vehicle import permit, I rode nearly all the way back to Tapachula. I crossed into Guatemala in La Mesilla, Mexico. My last night in Mexico was pretty sweet, too. I found a camping spot on this blue water lake in the Lagunas de Montebello National Park.

In Antigua, Guatemala…I have found my first subject of innovation in an third-world/emerging

Ecofiltro is working very hard to solve the drinking water crisis in third-world communities of the world.

economy. The company is Ecofiltro, an expat-led firm that manufactures and markets ultra-cheap water filters for use in the poor, rural villages that abound in Guatemala. They turn ordinary river, lake, or rainwater into a clean and great-tasting vaso de agua for less than 1/10 the cost of bottled water and zero of the health concerns of drinking untreated water. It’s a compelling story and a great example of how capitalism, which has gotten a bad rap of late in some circles, can truly add value to a culture and an economy…when it’s the right kind of capitalism. Capitalism based on innovation and developing innovation into a business model, i.e. human creation. I’m very excited to have found my first story. Now, I just need to query the right publications to get it out there in the world. They just opened a new factory back in March and are at the beginning of an eight-year plan to plant 99 more factories in 99 more third-world/emerging countries around the world by 2020. Indeed, it’s an exciting time to be Ecofiltro CEO Philip Wilson.

And of course, it’s also an exciting time to be Adam Barone.

08/25/12

Thinking about what I’m going to say to my bike.

The Rumble Bee has been losing its shit lately. Let’s go down the list…

– Seized coolant thermostat? I’m still not convinced of this one. The spring looked good. It looked almost newish. I think I may have even had a new one installed in my pre-trip shakedown at MAX BMW in North Hampton, NH. But I had to do something…the Rumble Bee was literally throwing up coolant all over the pavement like it was pledging a fraternity. So bye-bye went the thermostat…the one thing that can halt the flow of antifreeze/water throughout the whole cooling system. That’s its job. When its cold out, you don’t really want to cool the engine, so the thermostat closes a valve that halts the coolant and the transfer of heat. I’ll eventually replace it. But I’m OK for now in the tropics. Ahh, liquid cooled engines. But wait, my bike is also air-cooled with a radiator fan. What? Cars have antifreeze and fans, but is that a unique feature of the F650GS in the world of bikes? I’m not sure, and I don’t really feel like running through schematics of other bikes to satisfy that curiosity–I’m having a good enough time understanding my own. Thank you, za Germans.

– Seized radiator fan. No doubts here. That thing looked like it had been in a war with one of its blades missing and all kinds of grindy, sandy, metallicy stuff that used to be bearings coming out into the hands of the curious parking garage attendant. Nothing like a Spanish speaker who knows how to use the word, “fuck” correctly. I myself am learning my way around, “chinga” and “huevos.” Chinga is a pretty straightforward translation of “fuck,” but it can also mean, “cool,” depending on the context. “Huevos,” the literal term for “eggs” has a whole basketful of meanings, but paired with the proper “talk to the hand” gesture with (now this is very important) closed fingers, it means, “Back off!” Or “Leave me the fuck alone!” Helpful when attempting to cross the border in Guatemala…before my bike got…

-A nail in the back tire. “Huevos!” I shouted at the trabitadors (sp?) (border helpers). I don’t care if I spell that word wrong…it’s the most annoying profession in the world. Just let me wade through my first-ever completely foreign overland border crossing on my own, please. I have copied and pasted the proper procedure from the Horizons Unlimited website onto my Notes app. I’ll be good. I might make a mistake, and I’ll have to correct it. I’ll waste a little time. NO BIG DEAL. But apparently my desire to do the thing myself was a big deal. The angry little gang of trabitadors no doubt saw the BMW logo emblazoned on the side of my Bee-yellow motorcycle and thought I was a honeypot that just rolled in. “Huevos!” “Huevos!” I turned around and throttled up to escape the mobbing. Next thing I knew, my rear end was getting squirrely. I pulled over and there it was…a perfectly bent at a 90-degree-angle 3-inch nail, smiling ass-end-up at me!

As were those Trabitadors, I bet. I have a hunch that after I threw eggs at their advances, and they knew I wasn’t going to budge on “no gracias,” they cleverly planted that nail so I would get the flat. Otherwise? Really? You’re going to have a giant nail that big and obvious just hanging out on the street right in front of a gate to another country? Oh, there’s also the fact that 20 minutes after I pulled over to the side of the road to begin fumbling around with tire irons and a weird tool called a “bead buddy” that’s supposed to help you break the bead on a motorcycle tire, so you can take it off the rim…one of the trabitadors pulled up to my broken down ass and asked me if I wanted him to take my tire and spare tube to a mechanic who could mount it up for me.

TRABITADOR!

Not so chinga, but yes. Please take my flat tire, and bring it back not flat. Thank you. Gracias. Here are some pesos.

….so, Rumble Bee. Baby…I know it hasn’t all been your fault, but you need to get a little tougher. You’re not a small child that needs constant attention and monitoring. You’re a damn motorcycle…and a dual-sport BMW at that! You’re supposed to be a bad ass. Start acting like it. Run over those nails like you got a pair, stop spitting up all over that man’s feet. You can do better! I know you can.

Oh, but you don’t talk back, do you? How do I know that you understood me? I don’t. And…you probably didn’t. You’re going to continue being a little problem child, aren’t you? OK. We’ll roll with that. Yeah, we’re going to keep rolling, honey. I’m sorry, but that’s your purpose in life…to transport my big butt around the world. After that’s over, maybe we can talk about getting your rims shined and your engine polished, Diva.

-Adam

08/17/12

All aboard the all saints express!

LA CALLE ENTRE DE TAPACHULA Y OAXACA — For those of you who took Spanish in high school or college and forgot most or all of it since, the dateline reads, “the road between Tapachula and Oaxaca.”

I’m headed north, which wasn’t the plan at all. In fact, at no point on this journey did I think I’d be backtracking 12 hours for any reason. And paying a cool $1,000 American for the privilege of this one-way ticket aboard a brand new Ford F-350 dually with a covered flatbed…complete with a “Made in Kentucky Ford Truck Plant” sticker in the lower right corner of the windshield? Definitely not. Yet, here I am sitting in the cab next to Jesus. (Can’t make that up!) And riding in the flatbed resting up for his shift at the wheel on the way home is none other than Juan, which of course translates to John.

Jesus, Juan and Adam riding through the mountains at night on their way to see the wise men that know how to fix my lame steed.

And then theres Paul. Or Paolina rather. (Believe me, she’s no Paul.) The chica whom I met in Ciudad Mexico who’s going to take a 6-hr bus ride to Oaxaca to see me.

If this is some kind of all-saints express, I wish my moto were not the sacrificial lamb. But that is the metaphor at work here, and who am to argue with that?

One of the rules of this trip for me was “Barone, don’t fall in love. Seriously, love has been such an overwrought cliche in everything you’ve done. Seriously, don’t. I know you have a weakness for deep brown eyes, mocha skin, and all that is lovely Latina loveliness, so indulge if you must, but for St. Pete’s sake… Love. And. Leave.

And I will. I’ve told Pao that I am committed to the completion and mission of this trip and that nothing will stop me, not even those dimples.

Yet, both man and machine have conspired to send me back in her direction. Man as in Germans not licensing a single BMW Motorrad dealer in the entire Mexican State of Chiapas. Machine as in the Rumble Bee being a little bitch about keeping her engine parts cool under the blazing Sol de Mexico.

I really am just the rider in all this. One, maybe two months in Mexico has become three and counting, but at least I’m still riding. Whether in a truck, on my moto, or the waves of cosmic events.

-Adam

08/16/12

My last night in Mexico.

TAPACHULA, Chiapas, Mexico — Aug. 16, 2012 — I’m sitting here in my bed literally at the last possible minute I could be writing something that is supposed to give you a taste of what Mexico City (for two weeks), Puerto Escondido, and the road south to the border of Guatemala. What I’ve done, what I’ve seen, who I’ve met, and my impressions of it all…while I’m still in Mexico.

A pit stop on the mountain roads between Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido.

This city lies on the border of Guatemala. I got here four days ago with full intentions of continuing through the border and on to Antigua, Guatemala. I actually was within spitting distance of the gates when I was rushed by a small mob of trabitadors (border helpers) ready to take my pesos in exchange for ferrying me through the various levels of administrivia I’d need to successfully navigate to make my way through.

I brushed off their advances, but they didn’t take no for answer. Some of them actually got in the way of my moving bike, jumping out of the way at the last minute. I don’t get it. My Spanish is good enough to tell them no thank you. They are by far the most aggressive folk I’ve encountered in any context in Mexico. I have a feeling that they planted the nail that ended up giving me a flat tire as I rode away in search of the elusive Banjercito, the federal bank of Mexico where I must get my $300 deposit back for the temporary vehicle important permit.

Between the flat tire and the coolant thermostat dying, I’ve had a busy couple days dealing with bike issues. And finding El Banjercito has been my second most pressing concern. I don’t want to leave $300 on the table for no good reason. I found it today thanks to a cab driver, but it was the wrong branch of El Banjercito. So, I took another cab to the smaller branch which was at some kind of checkpoint close to the Guatemala border. But, since I didn’t have my bike with me, I couldn’t complete the transaction. But at least I found out where it was. It will be my first stop on the way out of Mexico in a few hours.

Puerto Escondido was a nice relaxing few days…even though is was miserably hot at times. I’m used to being drenched in sweat for the whole day now though. Since leaving the highlands of Mexico City, that’s how it’s been. While I was there, Tropical Storm Ernesto blew through and chewed up the beach pretty good.

Fishing boats laying on a narrow sliver of beach that was left by Tropical Storm Ernesto.

I’ll conclude this post with some summarizations of my two weeks in Mexico City. First off, I got to stay there for free thanks to my new good friend Marc Osterer, a trumpet player in the Mexico City Philharmonic. The first week, I got the place all to myself as he went back to the States to play a gig in upstate New York. I was humbled by his offer, and gladly accepted it. I had a grand ole time getting lost all over this gigantic city. I saw some cool sites, such as the Guadalupe Cathedral and the impressive squares and grounds around it.

In the square of the Guadalupe Cathedral.

I also met some cool people…a couple of dudes from a biker club called the Cavernarios, founded by the brother and friend of a girl I met in the Ciudad named Laura. I palled around with her for several nights during my stay. We went to an authentic Mexican cantina and had a nice little afterparty. It was great that Marc had gotten back from the states by then; he was able to come out and join. The next night, I got to meet a couple of his friends…two girls named Samantha and Paolina. Sam was an American that Marc played with in the orchestra. Pao is my future ex-wife. Haha. Maybe.

Anyway, I need to get to sleep now. I have a long day of a border crossing and a four-hour ride to Antigua through the mountains.

-Adam

07/19/12

The parts of the last two weeks that didn’t involve Mexican strippers.

MAZATLAN, Sinaloa, Mexico/GUADALAJARA, Jalisco, Mexico — My ankle is likely to see softball-size proportions by morning. But that’s no surprise as I’m historically prone to accidents that occur in preparation of something halfway significant.

There’s the time that I barreled into the bleachers and gashed my shin on the open edge of an uncapped end of a portable aluminum bleacher during WARM-UPS of a football game in high school. It gave the paramedics standing by something to do in pregame (they usually look bored), but more infamously, it initiated a lifelong theme for me.

Not to be outdone in college, two nights before my first-ever home college football game at Anderson University in Indiana, I was at an off-campus dance being a fool in a mosh pit I helped start. Well. I got pushed in the back at an odd angle and promptly went down hard on my right knee and produced a 2nd degree sprain of my PCL ligament. Later in life, when surviving the “arctic” that New Hampshire was in the winter of 07-08, I backed up with mucho gusto in the hood of my neighbor’s brand new Corolla with my F-150. A nine-foot snow bank separating the driveways of our townhouses had a part, but I remember feeling a bit restless that morning, and it wasn’t beyond me that maybe I gunned it a little bit too much without looking. Hey, spinning your wheels in snow and ice is one of the few pleasures of a New England winter. Not two months later I duplicated an identical automotive injury to my girlfriend’s (at that time) brand new Saturn Ion.

This time I laid the bike down in some stealthy gravel in the parking lot of a gas station after filling up and taking a nice long soda break. But I was looking where I was going. How could I not? Aside from contorting myself into some kind of freakish reverse cowboy riding position on my hapless German steed, there’s nowhere to look but forward. Even with head turned, you’ve still got peripheral.

No, my mistake was I wanted to show off in front of all the dudes I’d just drank two bottles of Manzana Lift with…oh you’ve never heard of Manzana Lift? I’ve got two worlds for you: Apples. Bubbles.

“Fucking owwww!” My ankle, now resting snugly underneath the dead weight of my left-side pannier…and the other 400-some pounds of my bike, started thinking for me.

Roll off the bike. Remove foot from gravel/aluminum ass crack. Roll over some more and look up at the sky for a minute.

Now of course, cue the frantic response team, some still with soda in hand.

I think they thought I took it harder than I did. They would not be the first to make that misguided assumption about me.

I got up. Promising. And I could walk, which meant I could ride.

“Esta bien?” Said one of them.

I hopped up and down a couple times for a response.

Now, let’s turn our attention to the bike. OK, nothing destroyed. Just a bent up aluminum pannier, which Strike Team Soda quickly converged on with the help of good ole Mr. Bigwrench who had just now dropped in on the scene. They didn’t have the right tool, but I did.

I unhitched my camping dufflebag from the back seat and dug deeply. Yes, my rubber mallet. At first, I started in on the pannier…but I must have been a bit shaken still because I couldn’t muster much of a swing. But they could, my new pop-drinkin’ buddies.

It took them about five minutes to pound everything back into usable form. Thank goodness I’d reinforced the luggage rack with steel back in Baja, or I fear my entire luggage system would have been much worse off.

The end result is that my left side now hangs a bit higher than my right. Symmetry seems to be a character flaw my bike is steadily shedding along this journey. At least it didn’t get sheered off like my left side rear-view mirror did in Baja.

After arriving in Mazatlan, well…this blog trails off. I hobbled around until I hobbled into a doctor’s office. He gave me two shots, a script and said I wouldn’t need to call him in the morning…or even in two hours because the pain would be gone.

It was. Hooray for modern medical science beyond icing the dang thing for two weeks.

Mazatlan was cool. I’d write more about it, but it doesn’t really matter. The pictures I took told the story better than anything I could write. Pristine, beautiful beaches and transcendental sunsets.

After Mazatlan, I rode to Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-biggest city, where I hung out with some cool Dutch girls, partied with some Aussie boys, learned more Spanish, made more bad decisions, and had lots of fun doing it.

I’m leaving tomorrow for Mexico City, which is large. The biggest city in the Western Hemisphere. Ooh. Ahh. So metropolisy.

Maybe I’ll meet more Mexican strippers.

06/26/12

A bandito land siege while waiting in paradise for a part.

BUENA VENTURA, Baja California Sur, Mexico — Time has its foot on my tail, and I can’t go anywhere. Me and the thumper.

At least within a 50-mile radius. I’m waiting for a $60 part for the intake manifold from my BMW motorcycle dealer in the States. Without it, the bike won’t hold an idle and basically dies the second I let go of the throttle because there’s no or very little air making it to the engine. Indeed, suffocation sucks. I realized it was going to take a while and was prepared for five to seven days, according to the dealer, not 12 to 14.

The more infuriating part is the bike currently runs, and I still have to wait. I was fortunate enough to run into a talented mechanic, and he had the problem diagnosed and cured, insofar as the bike running, before I even showed up to the garage the next morning. He patched up the broken part with JB Weld, reinstalled it into my bike, and that’s how I’ve been riding it for the last almost two weeks, four of those nights in Hotel Mulege (a nice air-conditioned room), four nights tent camping on Playa Santispac, and the last five here at Playa Buena Ventura about 30 miles south of Mulege. I’ve now upgraded my digs to a camper. I suppose I could have chanced it and ventured off with the mended part instead of a new one. But…peace of mind in your machine, especially when it’s your home, is important.

The terrain around here is jaggity as hell. Like giant piles of every-size rocks, from silt-like sand to boulders of every size and texture, dropped from an enormous dump truck in the sky. One hundred foot cliffs around-the-next-corner unforgiving. Then there’s the heat. Somewhere between 105-115 of muy caliente. There’s a thermometer, but I’ve stopped looking. I seem to handle it better when I don’t know how hot it is.

Right now, I’m completely alone in this restaurant except for Bertha, who cooks me meals. I use the WiFi and drink waters and Tecates all day. Usually I’ll go into the water once a day, but thanks to three failing pairs of leather sandals I bought from a Mexican-run shop in Mulege, both feet have a few blisters on the mend, and it stings in the salt. I still go in though…with my fourth pair of sandals…these from an American-run store, a comfy pair of Reef-like flip-flops . I also scratched the bottom of my big toe on a barnicle whilst towing my kayak back to shore after tipping over multiple times. Clearly I don’t know what I’m doing because I took the two-man kayak (figured longer was better for a guy my size) instead one of the many one-mans. The surf was getting heavier and it became difficult to control from my rear seat, so I got out and pushed.

Hey, at least I got a good workout, and Mark, Olivia, Nathan, and Savannah got a funny show. They’re the family that owns and runs this little nook in paradise. Mark and Olivia are in their late 40’s/50’s. Nathan, 21, is their son, Savannah, 19, their niece/cousin.

Paradise for these four–Mark and Olivia especially–has come at a price. They’re hopefully near the end of a 10-year land war with this bandito named Rafael Munoz, whose henchman have been coming around the property attempting to take it by force. By force! I kid you not. Guns firing off like cowboys chasing off Indians in the Wild West type of stuff. Only replace horses with the banditos’ red pick-up truck. I have to give Mark credit for keeping his wits under pressure…he snapped a picture of a gun pointed in his face! That was just one of the nights the couple was under siege earlier this year. Munoz’ thugs wouldn’t let them leave for days at a time.

The epic bout has spilled over into the courts, as well, but it’s interesting to see how matters get settled with a little extra O.K. Corral in Mexico. First, Mark was asked to pay the local cops money for gas to come all the way out to his beach to address the situation. Umm, never heard of it working that way. In any country, third-world or not. Then, the cops apparently got a little jilted when Mark asked them to remove the banditos from his driveway. The cops did nothing, and instead acted like immature brats! Brats I tell you! When Mark brought a U.S. Consulate Officer into the mix, the locals complained that Mark didn’t respect them and asked him to apologize.

Huh?

Whether he did or didn’t respect them, the word in Mexico is that local cops are the most corrupt. Mexicans and tourists alike routinely drop 200-peso notes on them to stay out of jail for ridiculous reasons like towing a trailer that is “too big” (true story!) The cops get their pesos and they magically change their tune. Hilarious! Until it happens to me.

It’s a good thing the Mexican justice system has been treating Mark and Olivia a bit better. In the end, there’s a good chance Mr. Munoz will be in jail for his alleged crimes throughout all this…from home invasion and attempted murder to forgery and other “paper” crimes in this multi-front conflict.

It’s been fun hanging with this crew, but now they’re gone, and I’m forced to practice my Spanish with Bertha. Which isn’t bad at all. She’s such a sweet lady. Funny, too. But it’s not like I’m at the level with my Spanish where I can engage in any kind of meaningful small talk beyond the basic stuff, which we’ve already covered.

Time, go ahead. Inflict your will on me. I’ll have a margarita, a Tecate, two pina coladas and forget you’re even here.