– – I was out last night until 630am drinking and having fun. After only 2 hours of sleep, I am awake and ready to follow my new friends out into a rural town to explore. But I have a few moments to get some much needed writing done. The hangover will come later I am sure. – –
Lets get to the start of it, the roads are not dangerous because there is a kidnap trap around each corner – it’s donkeys, horses, bulls, and ditches that are waiting for you around the corner. These encounters wouldn’t be had by taking the toll roads for the most part, which are decently maintained but can still have the occasional large potholes or excessive topes (Spanish for extreme speed bumps). On some Adventure Rider forums there are stories of road encounters in Mexico that have even left some paralyzed because they hit a donkey. Some can be beautiful, as a road in the desert was covered in butterflies that took off as I drove through. Others can have amazing grip and twists, by my morning came to a heart-pounding stop as midway into a curve the road was blocked by 4 bulls with the sun to their back. Beautiful sight to see, but I could have easily crashed. These are main roads, the back roads are another story.
I have been primarily using Google maps to navigate around the country which has been extremely helpful as most streets are not labeled and I do not have time to read a sign because I have to look for potholes and aggressive drivers. My national geographic map is still my guide, Google just makes it easier. I have the capability, why not. But with all GPS navigation, it can sometimes lead you down some interesting paths just as a random detour from the main highway. One such occurrence led me down a muddy, flooded, road which I unfortunately crashed the bike. I knew it was going to happen as it was very slick and many hidden potholes under the water. Fortunately two guys were nearby to help me get up and out quickly, without regard to them being covered in mud as well. I am very thankful for their help in that instance as I would have been there for a few hours alone. I turned around only to realize that if I had continued straight rather than take the bad road then I would only have had to travel a few kilometers to get onto the highway. Great call Google.
The next day Google called an audible sending me onto SL 14, which was a stone and gravel path with plenty of ditches and cliffs. It’s hard to call it a road but more of a 4×4 trail with minimal traction. I made the decision to carry on with the road because it seemed feasible. So far it has been my most memorable road as I was chased downhill by a turkey within a few minutes. It was a close chase since I had to go slowly navigating around large rocks and holes. Further down the road I noticed a truck taking up the road and about 20-30 people in a group. Of course I was concerned since I was in the middle of no where with a large group blocking me in. Stopping a few meters short I could see that the bridge had been removed or was undergoing extensive repair leaving the only path over it to be extremely difficult, not to mention that there were people and construction materials all over. Only a motorcycle could get past this. Watching, I was waived to continue forward and over the obstacles. There is no way I would have attempted this if it wasn’t for the guy telling me to do it. The high angles, steps, heavy bike, and sharp turns would turn many away. But I gave into the peer pressure and went for it.
Within the first moments my bike did a nose dive and I barely managed to save it from dropping. The crowd reacted with excitement that I saved it, and I am sure some laughter too, but more importantly a few guys hopped behind the bike to help my ride it upwards and around. I spoke poor Spanish thanking them but the whole situation was very overwhelming and trying. Honking, I headed further down the road just to run into a herd of bulls being directed down the road. A few more difficult kilometers later I had found the Asphalt of route 127. I was so happy to have amazing grip and ease. Flying down the road I smiled and even yelled ‘Hola Caballos’ to some nearby horses. I was extremely excited to have conquered that road and had a unique experience of being helped.
A few moments later I slowed down due to a few large rocks being in the road, which is a key indicator that something is wrong. Sure enough, hidden on the other side of the bridge, the road had washed out. I would have been in a lot of trouble if I hit it at full speed. Slowing down to get over it, I felt my rear tire get a little washy. It was a flat. I turned around and parked on the bridge so that I could serve as a warning to others and to have a good place to work on the bike. I wasn’t going to get hit there at all.
FLAT TIRE, TWICE
Fortunately the flat was easy to find as it was caused by a nail still in the tire. I can repair that certainly! So I got to work by stacking rocks under the side cases to provide support and raise the rear off the ground some more. While removing the rear tire I was delayed by many of the locals stopping to see what was wrong. I quickly learned the word “ponchado” which is regional to Mexico to say a flat tire. I explained that I am fine and will fix it. The tire wasn’t patched found another hour and a half because of everyone I talked to. Even the Policia stopped and headed off. Just before I finished, two large trucks stopped and a father and son got out to help me. The father spoke decent english, so we just talked for a while and learned about one another. He worked in Florida, and other places in the SE, picking tomatoes and other farmhand type of work. They were wonderful and described my solo trip as if I were an Eagle going where ever I want. Just before they left he offered I come into the nearby town to stay with him. I would have if I didn’t need to make up a lot of time to get to Veracruz. That would have been unique certainly. After I finished the bike I headed straight into the creek with all of my clothes on. I didnt care one bit about the mud or my shoes being soaked. I needed to cool down immediately. The cold water was so inviting that I didnt want to lift my face up at all. A local drove by and laughed saying “lavador” which means to wash for the most part. Si Si, muy calehente.
Finally back on the road, I was paranoid about the rear tire. This was the first flat I had ever repaired, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Then, about 150kms later, my paranoia was for a good reason. The tire was going flat, fast. Pulling over, I desperately tried to put air in it hoping that it would be enough to get me into the next town or a place to hide for camping and repair work. The patch wasn’t working at all. Sitting there in defeat for about 10 minutes, a local on his motorcycle pulled up alongside me.
His name was Ignacio and we were able to talk through his small vocabulary of English and mine of Spanish. He came off very friendly and had worked in California for a few years, to include San Diego. I told him I did the Marines in San Diego, to share some common knowledge and rapport. While at first I thought he was saying he would take the whole tire into Tantoyuca, the nearby town that he is from, but he was actually in reference to the tire tube, which is called a “camara”. I made quick work to get the tube out and could see that the patch had melted away. Good to know for the future: use a few more patches. He rushed off into town with my ‘camara’ and 200 pesos.
The sun was hot but getting lower in the sky as I waited for Ignacio to return. I passed the time by feeding a stray dog and speaking any and all Spanish I knew to it. It was a castaway WILSON moment, but more to practice my Spanish. About an hour later Ignacio returned with the tube professionally repaired. I have gotten too good at installing tubes now, so it only took 10 minutes to have the tire fully aired up and ready to go. When he gave me back my change, 140 pesos, I insisted he keep it but he refused, so we managed to compromise at him keeping 40 (practically 2USD). Once It was clear that I was going to be find, Ignacio said goodbye and headed home before needing to be at work by 3am. My next problem was that it was an hour before dusk and I had no where to sleep.
Driving through Tantoyuca I saw a few feasible options hotel wise, but honestly I wasn’t ready to break the ice on that. A few side roads past the city on my map looked promising, so I had to give that a shot. Nope. There’s a fence. No tree cover. That trail looks promising!
Right alongside the road was a muddy trail alongside a fence that went behind some brush. Its a decent place to hide, but I noticed a lot of footprints and horse prints which most likely meant it was well traveled by the locals to get to work. The sun was gone so I have to make due with what I have. It wasn’t ideal as I was almost certain to have someone walk up on me as a slept, or worse yet a horse step on me. To avoid this, I needed to wake up at 5am so I could be packed and ready to go by dawn. Another sweaty sleepless night. I even stripped down to my bare skin to reduce any heat possible, but that too didn’t work, rather it caused it to be problematic as I could hear voices walking a few feet away from me on the road at 5. The farmers were up and heading to work. At any minute someone knowledgeable of my dirt path would head this way so that they wouldn’t get hit by a car. And here I was without any clothing reflecting brightly under the full moon. Needless to say, I made quick work to get ready and on the road before dawn. This was my first dark ride and I hope there are only a few more. It was hard to see the potholes until you were right up on them. The taxis knew them well, so I had to dodge them as they overtook me. Using my high beams wasn’t an option as too many cars were oncoming as well. Worst part was that the sunrise wasn’t even a sight to see.
The only thing good that came out of this night of camping, besides that fact that it was encounter free, was that I had an early start for my long ride to Veracruz.