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.


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.



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.



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.