06/18/12

Alone and mending melted parts.

MULEGE, Baja California Sur, Mexico – I’m alone out here and at the mercy of my environment and the people in it. Seems obvious, and of course, understanding that little tidbit is part of the pre-trip reading list. Experiencing it though? Not really prepared for that.

Here, I establish relationships with people and then I move on. It’s almost cruel to everyone involved. It’s weird. In Ensenada, this girl, with whom I spent a whole day riding around the northern coast of Baja, said to me, “You’re happy here.”

And I was on a surface level, but I knew it was temporary. And in that respect, when you know the expiration date on things, you sometimes can’t enjoy them.

It’s those things that make you happy, which you think are going to go on forever and it be exactly the same, and you be exactly the same, and nothing gets fucked up…it’s those things that really get you when they end.

Back to her comment. It took me aback. But then I realized she was right. I was happy. And for me, if I believed life was all about attaining happiness, maybe I would have stuck around a while longer. But I guess it’s not for me. Is it? Is that the only logical conclusion? Maybe I just knew I wouldn’t be happy forever, and that, of course, is what everyone wants.

What is it about for me?

I feel like it’s a cliché to say that I’m going to find out on this trip. I don’t really believe that, and maybe that’s pride on my part. Maybe I just need to succumb to the ebbs and flows of existence on the road like a surfboard. But I have standards and rules to which I adhere. They’re important, I feel, in helping me remain who I am in the face of all that constantly changes.

The funny thing is…I know that’s wishful thinking. I know this trip is going to change me. I just don’t know how.

I have this thing that I do sometimes when I’m not sure what to do: I laugh. You could call it a nervous reaction. Nervous laughter. On occasion, I’ve recorded myself for one reason or another doing it, and, lemme tell you…I hate what it sounds like.

Maybe that will change. No more nervous laughter because I’ve completed a ring around the earth on a motorcycle. Deal? Deal.

I got some disappointing news today that one of my articles was not accepted for publication. I’m completely rewriting it and will likely re-submit it. I don’t know if that goes against accepted practice with this publication, and I don’t care. Better to ask for forgiveness than permission, though. That little standard has proven itself valid numerous times in my life and others’. Canonize that bitch.

Me and my new best friend Alejandro. His cousin owns the garage my bike’s gonna get fixed at. My first night in Mulege, he and I went out for a beer, which turned into a whole bottle of tequila (via margaritas) and many cervezas. I haven’t hung out with him too much since then, but he’s a good cat. As is the rest of the guys at that garage.

Add disappointing news to a bout of boredom, and you’ve got a mildly depressed Adam Barone. Oh, and I’m stuck here, waiting for a part to arrive for my motorcycle. It was broken down completely, but the Mexican mechanic that tore my bike down and diagnosed the issue as a compromised section of the intake manifold…well…a compromised intake manifold and JB Weld can be a beautiful combination in the right hands.

The bike is actually running like hot butter right now…the best it’s been since Boston. Yet, I still need to wait for and install this part. The puttied up version that’s in my bike now could last a long time, but then again, maybe not.

The part was supposed to be here tomorrow, but I doubt that’s going to happen. Nevertheless, I’m leaving this hotel room. I can’t stay another night here even though it’s comfy and air-conditioned. Bed could be better, but hey…it’s less than 30 bucks a night. I get clean towels and sheets everyday. No complaining.

Nevertheless, after being plugged back in 24/7 for the last 5 days or so, I’m looking forward to unplugging for at least three. Maybe more. My way is due south from here, and there’s lots of opportunity for camping on the beaches of the Sea of Cortez (otherwise known as the Gulf of California). I plan to take advantage of that.

My destination is La Paz, Mexico. I’m not sure how long I’m going to be there. I’m due to meet up with this Russian guy, who went to Boston University for seven years studying philosophy. I found him on Couchsurfing.org. We actually used to live in the same general part of Boston. He left on his motorcycle to go around the world about a year ago, but didn’t make it out of the United States and Canada until just recently.

Yeah, it’ll be my second go around with that site, Couchsurfing. I had a good experience in the Black Hills. Hopefully, this next one will make two.

 

 

I love riding in shirt sleeves in the heat.

06/13/12

Howling at Coyote’s

ERENDIRA, Baja California, Mexico – Big surprise: I’m having the time of my life. On a motorcycle trip around the world, you’ll get that I suppose.

Pacific in Baja

Baja is where the desert meets the ocean.

It’s night time right now, and I’m laying in my bed with my screenless window open to the Pacific. I’ve literally been falling asleep to the sounds of waves crashing for the last week here in Erendira…save the last two nights when I made an unexpected trip back to Ensenada, where I’d been for a week to cover the Baja 500, to hang out with my new friend Jose (name changed to protect the guilty) and his crew of deported “chicanos” and “chicanas,”—Mexicans who’ve had a significant amount of time in the United States—enough to influence their personality and language skills. They had been legal aliens until they got themselves in trouble with the law for selling drugs.

My main goal in stopping here for a week was to work on the two articles for which I’ve completed the reporting and research, but not the actual writing. One is about the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota, for which I only recently received responses back to some key questions. And the second is a piece about the Baja 500 desert race, which I just attended.

Aside from the staff of Coyote Cal’s Hostel, I’ve been one of only a handful of guests here. There was a time when this hostel was constantly buzzing with 50+ backpackers and other traveler and adventure types on any given night, but it hasn’t been like that for the last seven years or so, says Rick, the proprietor. Media reports of drug cartel violence throughout Mexico have effectively scared away all but the most adventurous, very few of which seem to be American. With over two weeks in the books here in Mexico, I haven’t encountered anything approaching that kind of danger. That’s not to say it’s not out there, but the cartels have an agenda with their violence, and messing with travelers or ordinary citizens isn’t part of it. Not that I’ve seen or heard of, anyway.

I should know. The crew I hung with the last two days is either part of a cartel or they work for them as “contractors.” I guess I don’t fit in with the typical stereotype of the American tourist—that is of someone who just got off a cruise ship to get a “Mexican” experience in port. They’re usually wearing some combination of a giant obnoxious sombrero, which they bought as soon as they got off the ship, sandals/flip-flops often with white socks, giant Nikon or Canon camera slung around their neck with a camera bag hanging off their shoulder containing a grab bag of lenses and other gear they wouldn’t need if they were a pro on an African safari, searching for el grande purple spotted elephant-tiger for National Geographic. There was a time when that was me, so I’m allowed to poke fun.

A bunch of the dirt roads around Coyote Cals were on the Baja 500 course and chewed up pretty good. In turn, those roads chewed me up pretty good.

Really though, these were good people despite their occupations. Each of them had paid a sacrifice for doing what they’re doing, but it didn’t seem to stop them. One of the girls, a 27-year-old, has four children back in the States, whom she rarely gets to see. It’s not like they want to be doing something they have to sweat about every time they get stopped at a police or military checkpoint, which are everywhere, but they do what they must to get by. There’s no welfare state or social safety net, so it’s very much a hustle-or-don’t-eat scenario for many, including my new friends.

They would have had plenty of opportunity to take my stuff or otherwise take advantage of me, but they were more interested in hearing about what I’m doing…and in many cases, showering me with story ideas for future articles!

One chica even spent over an hour giving me a haircut…a scissor cut, which in Boston, you might pay upwards of $60 for. She wasn’t going to take any money, but I insisted on giving her something. Turns out a $50 peso note is usually more than the average price for a haircut, which works out to about $4 American. I meant to give her $100, but we got separated, and I left Ensenada for the last time on this trip a few hours later.

“Rosalita,” if you’re reading this, advertise, ‘Men’s Scissor Cuts $19’ when you open your salon. You’ll build an empire.

My room was in the main building in the left of this photo.

There’s no place in the world I’ve been quite like Baja—places where the desert meets the ocean. The weather has been sublime, and when I haven’t been writing or chilling with my new friends, I’ve had all kinds of cool stuff to do—my favorite being jumping on my bike stripped of the extra weight of my around-the-world luggage and testing my offroad abilities on the impressive network of dirt roads and paths, many within view of the ocean.

This adventure is still in its infancy, but suffice to say, I feel right at home on the road. I do believe I could make a career of this and not get homesick. Adam Barone, travel journalist? Maybe. We shall see.

The deserts have been a whole new landscape for me on this trip. Pretty sweet!

I’m anticipating encountering one of those situations for which I’m ill-prepared. I’m wondering when the day will come that somebody will mess with my bike or me. I was right in my thinking that there are easier targets. I was stopped at a military checkpoint the other day not 300 yards away from where I’m staying. The Mexican military dudes were pretty impressed by my bike. One asked me to give it to him to which I replied with a gigantic belly laugh and a pat on his back. “No, amigo. La moto esta mi casa. Todos la mundo. (The motorcycle is my home. Around the world.)” When I said that, he seemed to gain some degree of respect for me. Enough for the rest of the encounter to be lighthearted and jovial anyway. Hey, when anyone, military or not, is carrying an automatic weapon, is prepared to use it if necessary, and you don’t and aren’t…all you can do is laugh, right?

Mucho mas tequila!

Esta bien. When I leave here on Sunday, my plan is to make my way down the Pacific coast of Baja…dirt roads the entire way to the town on the border Baja California Sur (South Baja). It will be the first time I fill up my collapsible fuel bladder, which will give me just over seven gallons of fuel capacity, which is good for about 350 miles or so. Plenty, I think.

And plenty of adventure left to go.

05/18/12

gas station bliss

gas station bliss

Mommy, there are shells here–
It’s because things that lived died
It’s what they left behind
Field mice chatter as they run
Behind another shell

With a different kind of death
The desert looms quietly serene
Stillness is all that moves
Until the wind says so

Crickets on lead
Tractor trailors on bass
The atmosphere craves wet
But I have all I need
I have all I need
And it’s more than I should have.
I have a bottle of Evian.

05/12/12

A Love Letter To My Motorcycle.

We stopped to pee

She's always been a bad ass like this. Love!

Dear 2001 BMW F650GS,

I call you Rumble Bee. I know it’s kitschy, baby. I’m sorry. We don’t all get to have awesome names like mine. Hey, at least you have a clutch. Do you know how many times I wish I could have disengaged my gears? Especially the ones that run the freak show in my head?

Baby, you were a freak today. I don’t know what got into you, but you had me racin’ down the dirty unpaved sinews of these Black Hills. Plunging into muddy rutts. Creepin’ up steep slippery slopes…climbin’ mountains, baby! Mountains! You and me. Climbin!

You’ve always been sexy. Remember when we met?

Waiting for the humans

The Rumble Bee's getting restless to get riding

I rolled up to meet you in my big black truck…hey, Tilly (truck’s name) was love at first sight with you. She wanted to tie you up in her bed right then and there. I told her to, “Chill out, bitch!” And shut her off, so we could meet each other in peace. Properly.

I get out. I see you and your hot little yellow-and-black body. All tough lookin’. Ehh…but I get up a little closer, and what do I see? Shitty handgrips. Baby, don’t front…they were SHITTY! All old and spongy. Nasty!

Other than that though…baby, you had it going on. I took a good long look at you. Oogled at your ass. Tried to undress you with my eyes to see if I could detect anything wrong in you. Did you leak? Did you make funny noises? Did you have parts that…well…let’s face it, darlin’, you ain’t exactly in your prime anymore! You’re an ’01, babes. Old.

Mmm, but you hadn’t seen too many miles though. About 9,800 miles if I remember right. Still under 10,000 was pretty rare for a girl your age.

I test rode you…only a couple miles, but it was enough, baby. It was all I needed. Really, you had me at the cough of your starter. You were coming home with me that night.

…And now look at your big-booty-boxin’ ass! I gave you some sweet steel crash bars and some bad ass rubber on your rims, and now you perch around the mountain like you own the damn place!

And this was a new thing for us today, wasn’t it baby? We didn’t have many dirt roads and woody paths back in Boston, did we hun?

Rumble Bee and Adam

We've seen some trials and tribulations, but we love each other. We'll be together until one of us dies. Probably her. Hopefully, not at the same time.

I’m glad we’re on this trip together. I’m glad I chose you out of all those other bikes out there…

Oh? What’s that? What about yesterday?

Don’t worry about it, baby. Every now and then, we all blow out our radiators. It happens to the best of us. I checked with the Germans, and they said it’s a known issue for the year you were born. Don’t sweat it. Hey, we got you fixed up. Good as new.

Anyway baby…how you performed today…the way you did it the way I wanted you, and how you showed me what you YOU WERE WORKING WITH? Rollin’ over big honkin’ rocks, kickin up dirt and gettin’ nasty when you had to! I’ll never forget it. Ever.

I hope to be on you for many, many miles to come on whatever kind of roads this world throws at us.

And baby, the fact that our first time together doin’ it out in the woods was in a threesome with the girl I had on your back seat?! Freak, baby. Straight freak.

Darlin’, they don’t make ’em like you anymore.

Love,

Adam

The rear end of my motorcycle

I had to get off to move a downed tree out the mountain path.

05/9/12

Rolling on through seas of prairie grass.

THEDFORD, Nebraska — May 8, 2012 — There’s no Craigslist for the area of Nebraska I’m in, and for the folks who live here, seas of grassy prairie dunes are the Jesus statue that stared at my former house in Boston.

Meaning…you can always count on them being there when you wake up.

It’s not easy for real people to have the staying power of millenia-old dunes or Jesus (statue or the concept of). To know they’re going to be there when you wake up. Or come to you…whether you’re ready or not. That’s expecting a lot.

Nevertheless, I’m happy to know a few people like that. I’ve seen a good many of them on this epic moto journey I’ve been on so far.

The friendships have largely become what they are because of honesty, trust, and camaraderie…which largely comprise various kinds of love. And love is always forged on something. And sometimes, that something hurts.

It hurts to push a blocking sled for 30 minutes in the Indiana August heat. But you hurt together, and that builds love between teammates. Some relationships aren’t as simple, and the emotional hurt that can flow between two people in a close relationship may not go away with a few cups of Gatorade and a cold shower, but it can still be something to build on.

Of course, this is all theory, and I’m pretty good at rationalizing sometimes. And not everything I do is rational. Quite irrational actually. My willingness to go with it, whatever it is, has been both a blessing and a curse in my life. I’ve reaped great rewards and borne painful consequences.

The blocking sled was cake by comparison.

-Adam

 

 

04/30/12

Leaving my world behind.

MINNEAPOLIS — Fewer things in life are more traumatic than upheaval. It comes in many forms: births, deaths, and milestones reached. Changing…jobs, significant others, your mind, and the place you call home. To name a few.

Motorcycles aren’t assigned street numbers. They don’t have zip codes. But they do have gas bills. (And repair bills…which can be quite ridiculous.) Changing the place you call home from a location to an object designed to take you from location to location sounds exciting, and it is. But it also represents a complete upheaval of the concept of home. Home is now something I take with me and point in the direction I want to go. My backyard will be changing landscapes. My neighbors…a constantly evolving cast of characters. This all wouldn’t matter so much if where one makes one’s home wasn’t such a big deal with we human types. But our lives sort of revolve around our homes. My home will now be my bike and the 80 pounds or so of gear I’m carrying on it. My address? Wherever the rubber happens to be touching the ground.

And I’m proud to call it my home. As well as my office.

The work I do in this office will be to find people doing innovative things that are somehow uplifting to their “third-world” communities and economies. “Innovative things” and “uplifting” are open for broad definition. Innovation is the outcome of creativity. Uplifting is a product of individual perception. What is uplifting to one group will not be the same as the next. Some people are hungry; others are starved for direction. It all depends on their circumstances and their own perceptions of what “progress” means.

My job will be to find the people helping progress along its way. If I’m successful, maybe we’ll be able to triangulate a common destination for progress. Even if that destination is just another road, pointing somewhere we never thought of. At least that’s progress.

-Adam