Friday, January 28, 2011

Antigua, MX to Copan, Honduras

Pics are up from Antigua, Guatemala to Copan, Honduras.  See below Picasa link.

Valerii Krishen crossed the border that George, Steve and I decided not to cross back in April at Frontera Echeverria (Corizal), MX but in the opposite (Eastern) direction so he didn't see the worst of it until the boat ride with MC in it was over.
His website is:
It has an English link in the upper right

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New riding partner

Carlos's couples ride was surprisingly super sonic in all conditions. Uncomfortably so.
Valerii Kryshen, who we met at the BMW dealership where we were spending the day getting Carlos's 1200GS rear drive fixed, was changing oil and his front tire on his Honda Africa Twin while on his RTW (round the world) tour.
We both saw no need to try to keep up with crazy fast riders, two up no less, and the two of us found good riding partners in eachother. We took a more liesurely pace to the same border crossing to Honduras that the couples took and when we got there, they were waiting around for the wheels of the Honduran bureaucracy to turn. They were a day behind on a schedule of two weeks and had women to answer to so they did not feel offended that we did not keep up their pace. Doris, Carlos wife, said if she were driving she would go faster.

After being released from an eternity (over six hours) of running for copies, waiting on lines, paying the bank...TWICE...  and computer malfunctions, Val and I rode off Men...
Euphoric, we stopped in Copan town to check out the restaurants and discuss the plan for the evening accommodations. While waiting for our burritos, I looked at the hotel next door, nice place, nice lady, got it to $20 from $22 for both of us. Then we were informed of a place just up the street and his price came from $20 to $15 but we still wanted the first place so it came down to $10.
It is where I type now on a very good Wi Fi connection and secure parking...the laundry is already in the machine. Showered and still drying our evening plan is to get Lempira from the ATM and check out the town.
The ruins of Copan's the plan for the AM with a free ride from the Hotel manager. Tuck Tuck would be under $1 one way. We rolled a seven on La Hotel Marjenny.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

San Cristobal, MX to Antigua, Guatemala

1/21 Day 2 in San Cristobal, MX:
Got in touch with Mauricio via email and set a meeting for the next day, then talked to a couple of long distance style MC riders downtown. From what I could gather, they said there was motorcycle convention in town the next day, so I thought it would be nice if Mauricio comes that same day. I am staying an additional day to take these events in and I am looking forward to the company.
Went for a café con leche and took some pictures around town, including the massive market area up in the hilly part of town.
All while waiting with anticipation for Day 3.

1/22 Day 3 in San Cristobal, MX:
No contact with Mauricio and I could not find any Motorcycle Convention. I fell into another wave of homesickness or maybe just “fish out of water” feelings that I thought I would not be able to shake. I considered a northbound route for the next day without knowing what else to do. I spent a bit of quiet time in the hotel room that afternoon to consider the darkest of scenarios, maybe something happened to Mauricio on the way over and he was unable to contact me. Maybe I misunderstood the riders Spanish about the rally and the convention was the next day, or maybe just outside of town due possibly to the large numbers of bikes that may be expected.
I didn’t know and I was in an unshakable funk, I turned the movie channel on… just at the opening credits for Wuthering Heights. About halfway through, I was about ready to cut my wrists, metaphorically of course.
I did enjoy the English country dancing scene, however.
About the time Kathy tells Heathcliff “…don’t say to me you love me, for it would destroy me …“
I turned the TV off tossed down the remote and bolted out of the hotel toward downtown. Two blocks later I noticed about eight big LD duelsport bikes outside a restaurant, one of which I recognized from the day before. I grabbed a couple of pictures and went inside. There were at least twice the number of riders than bikes and they had an entire room to themselves.
Seeing all those conversations in Spanish among so many strangers to me, did little to boost my fallen spirit even though I knew I had to introduce myself at some point, simply because it would be out of character if I didn’t. Apparently unnoticed, I stepped outside again to consider a strategy.

I walked around the block thinking I would catch everyone mounting up to leave but by the time I got back there they were just cracking open more tequila bottles and clicking shot glasses together. I make my move.
To the fellow nearest me … “I hear a few of you came from a long way to get here, can I get your signature in my travel book”?
“Sure, I’ll sign. Where are you from”? He struggled to enunciate in English.
Feeling not only relieved he understood the question but a complete turnaround occurred in the entire room shortly after the answer “I rode down from New York City”

The Boyz have come through for me again. Gonna miss them at the handoff at Mooshine, Illinois, in April. They provided me with my opening, I latter explained fully about the fallen riders and the purpose of the TAG.
It turns out there was a class held by a Guatemalan riding instructor, Raul Toledo, who I was introduced to in less than five minutes and five signatures later. Raul wrote a small book called “Moto Tips” and was holding court explaining riding techniques with words and gestures as well as selling and signing his book. He signed and gave a copy to me, and I expressed a deep appreciation. The faces at that table were riveted to his every word and I assumed they all knew each other. But I later found that they had only been in contact, but never met him until he was invited to hold this class.
I got about six pages in the STOC TAG book filled with Mexican and Guatemalan riders, pictures, a few invites to come stay over, and an offer to ride with Rauls group over to the border with Guatemala the next day. Also Carlos, a San Cristobal resident, offered for me to tag along on a prearranged ride through Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador over the course of about 10 days starting the 26th of January.
All this with only a bit of disappointment from a few that I would not allow them to pour me a drink. I didn’t say a word about drinking and riding but was aghast that these guys were mostly going to ride after this, albeit a very short distance for the most part.
About half of them drove to the restaurant in cars donning there riding gear and I can only assume it’s because they knew they’d be drinking but I didn’t ask.
After about an hour of celebrity, fourteen signatures, and a half hour of Raul explaining riding techniques and a quite a bit of shot glass toasts I said I would be happy to travel with Raul and his class the next day. I excused myself and said I needed to go get a few things packed to be ready at 8:00AM.
Once out on the street, I opened an email from Mauricio. He apologized profusely about not showing up and said something came up in the family, that I should be certain to stop by again on the way north, “Please Please” Meanwhile, I have another solid contact in Mauricio’s city of Tuxla Gutierrez, Jose Antonio Olguin Ruiz. Maybe I can introduce them to each other at a meal. Their was another rider who said he knows Mauricio after I described his Harley.

1/23 Day 4 in San Cristobal, MX:
Now I feel my heart soaring. I can’t sleep past 4:00AM so I am up getting ready for the southbound ride. I am packed and ready to roll before the hotel doors are unlocked. The attendant heard the WEE engine and threw open the gates. I roll down the steep drive out onto the streets of a virgin Sunday at 7:00 AM in search of coffee and breakfast. I stop at a stand in the plaza area under one of the churches where I enjoy a hot cup of joe and a tamale, $1.
A young couple with full backpacks walk over to me and then I recognize them as Nora and Vincent, the couple who signed the book on the beach back at Mazunte.
They had just stepped off the bus and were looking for a particular hostel that is apparently hard to find.
They looked pretty ready for a bed at that point, but it was great seeing them and enjoying a breakfast together.
The meeting and departure was late. I guess we can blame the tequila for that. Raul is riding a 20 HP 150cc Yamaha race bike and has be showing riding techniques to guys riding big beemers. While on the road to Guatemala, Raul, surprised me with his ability to stay with everyone on the straights and do very well in the turns. I would not have ridden as fast as that group if I were alone. The topes were all over, even in the turns so it was a spirited ride for me.
At the border it was just me and Raul after everyone broke off. We met a 20 something Wyoming rider, Cyrus, on a dirt bike and we decided to wait for him to get checked in so we can ride as three. The border crossing was uneventful with not even one “helper” solicitation. I just snapped a few pics including the money changers dealing with Raul.

We had a bit of fun running into deepest Guatemala together mostly led by Raul, the local. Cyrus was quite a character with enthusiasm about many ideas for bike accessories but didn’t have a working center or side stand because of an unplanned get off on an unpaved road. He did have plenty of broken things on his unique bike though.
At the lunch stop he hopped his bike up onto a walkway of the kfc style chicken fast food chain and in a very upright position and in gear leaned the left hand grip gently against the plate glass window. The local security guy asked him very nicely to put it exactly where I already suggested, up against a short concrete wall. He obliged without hesitation.
His bike shares many of the same parts as some KTM’s but I forgot the name of his bike. He claimed to have a drinking water reservoir in the swing arm, and he uses it with a bite valve. Raul thought he was a dreamer, enthusiastic but not in the real world. We both agreed he was crazy. Smiled a lot though.

We exchange email then Cyrus broke off to meet people in Panjachel. Raul and I were still making headway toward Guatemala City where he lives. We rode through the high mountain darkness after we stopped for bowls of hot soup to warm us. At one point we were riding with about 30 feet of visibility while in a cloud at between 9 and 10 thousand feet elevation. There were many landslide remains along that road and both directions of traffic had to share half the road many times. Other than that, the mountains and countryside is dangerously pretty, but don’t look to long, something is always lurking around that turn that’ll need a riders full attention. An emaciated dog wandering through traffic aimlessly apparently asking everyone “Please kill me”

I got to tour Guatemala City after hours on a Sunday evening so the traffic was barely detectable. I was surprised at how neat the streets were, trash free, at least on CA 1 through the city. Took us about 20 minutes to come all the way through the entire city on a major freeway. The next day will be a different story when I back track through the same way we came in only in rush hour traffic.
I enjoyed the company of Rauls two children who both speak English and were very polite and hospitable. The dogs, Mocha and Chachi were very curious but friendly. His son Daniele, is a 600cc super bike racer and has many trophies as does his father Raul. Daniel is learning Japanese and wants to go into international business. He’ll do well.
I felt like I borrowed a family. Felt good.

1/24 Day 1 in Antigua, Guatemala:
Raul warned about the rush hour in Guatemala City. We rolled out of his gated community, he on the 150, me on the WEE. While on his way to work, he wanted to lead me at least part of the way toward Antigua along the route that was such a pleasure to ride the night before and is now jammed with busses, cars trucks and is very smoky with exhaust fumes. Except for the fumes, the hour or so it took to backtrack through town was no worse than what I have been used to in NYC, although that is not saying much.
Antigua is a historic colonial town with thick walled buildings lining all of the streets which are paved with cobble stone. The giant market is a must see. Bring your negotiating skills. The chain eateries are in town but it’s funny to see a McDonalds or Subway with three foot thick walls keeping the character of the towns historic buildings.

Today I get a chance to update this ride story while waiting for Carlos and his couples group to show up later. Hope I don’t feel like a fifth wheel on the next leg of this trip though Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.

More pics at :

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mazunte to San Cristobel

The 326 miles from Zehuatenejo to Pinotepic Nacional on my way to Puerto Escondido was more tiring than the 368 miles from Mazunte to San Cristobel, MX. The little towns and topes wear not only on the brake pads, tires and shocks but on the rider as well.
With a strong suggestion from Robert my masseuse in Puerto, I headed to the tiny hippy and local Mexican town, Mazunte, on the south facing Pacific coast.
I planned to stop only for breakfast, but got attached to the place very fast.
While trying to establish a room on the beach, Larry came suddenly popping up and asked me “Do you understand what he just said?”
I don’t think there is a window made with glass in the entire town so conversations are easily overheard from within a home and that’s how Larry heard me struggling with the little Spanish I had and the total lack of English the owner had.
$200 pesos (~ $18 USD at 12 to 1) for a basic room. No hot water, towel, mats, soap, etc. flush the toilet with a bucket of water obtained from a bigger bucket under the shower pipe w/o a head, but mosquito nets ARE included and needed. The room has a very nice tiled balcony overlooking an absolutely gorgeous view. (see Picasa pics) Mexico is a land of extremes.
The young people are into the usual things hippies do on a beach including acrobatic flips, paddle ball, soccer, topless sunning, mimicking martial arts and of course pot smoking and beer drinking. They are a wide variety of personalities and abilities to return a smile probably because in some there is initial layer of cautiousness that needs to be disarmed with a more powerful smile and hola… or not. Either way is OK.
Larry is a former eighteen wheel truck driver from Kentucky and is holed up with his son Sean. He cooks with a solar collector cooker which apparently gets up to 300 degrees F.
Russel is staying under Larry and Sean in the structure adjacent mine and is adamant about not calling him Russ as he snapped at Larry jamming his finger into the table repeatedly. He is running from something in the states, is trying to quit smoking but always has a liter of beer opened and is very broke. He had initial trepidations maybe even hostility about my being from NYC. I asked him about it and he denied it nervously stating “Ya, you’re from NY but you’ll fit right in here.”
Started the next day with a 9:00AM yoga class which Russel told me strongly was at 11AM and at a different location. After class he said he wished he could have gone to that….what can I say? He is starting to soften.
Later, Sean and I are in the surf chatting when BANG! Mid sentence, I get an extremely sharp biting pain in the front right quadrant of my right foot. Sean looked at it and confirmed blood flow and an almost inch long blue discoloration running up into the side of my foot. He thought it might be a Stingray and said they could be poisonous. Along comes Larry at the moment I am thinking, should I just relax and see if I get dizzy. Larry duck taped an onion slice to the wound in case it was a venomous sting, then took me to the local clinic in his truck.
Still in pain, the clinician put boiling water in a bucket and told Larry to tell me to add my foot. Hot as I can stand it is best, adding cool water to temper the heat to tolerable.
This helped a lot. Then I got an anti- inflammatory shot in the butt. They see up to 10 ray stings a day at high season and was certain there was no chance of infection. I don’t know how he knows that but he was certain.
All in all a very worthwhile visit and for no obligatory fee but they do accept donations. My 200 paso note was much appreciated and Larry confirmed it was a very nice gesture. Even insisted Larry take a 200 note for gas and truck expenses. He needed convincing that the money will go to a good cause if he takes it
Back at base camp Russel was aghast that I got stung within the first 24 hours at Mazunte. He was softening further and by that night he was signing the TAG book with four letter words about NY but maybe there are a few NY’er that are palatable. We shook hands goodbye as I planned to leave the next day.
Nice that he accepted me eventually.
Packed up and ready to roll at about 7AM Larry, alerted by my repositioning the WEE for departure, came down to see me off with route advice and a map.
Even brought me coffee and a bowl of fruit with yogurt. 20 minutes later I am off on the road again and the biggest ride day in Mexico to date. I’m going inland to San Cristobel.
The ride combines twists with dusty towns and topes, gabrage burning on the side of the road that chokes the lungs, then some breath taking mountain roads with dangerous curves and nobody else anywhere. Spooky pretty. Hot between about 10 AM and 3 PM then cool in the mountains northeast of Salina Cruz.
Mexico is a land of extremes.
Then there is the toll road or Cuota around Salina Cruz which, thank God, we had figured out a bit on the George/Steve Belize ride back in April. It is invisible to the Mexico maps on my Zumo. It comes across a very windy section that not only did we experience in April but Larry warned me about before I left him. It was not as bad as it was in April but most of the wind generators in the miles long farm were turning pretty well.
Just after the windy section I stopped for lunch at a noisy but good and friendly roadside joint where my request for Tacos Pescadores got me a bunch reply syllables that I just nodded “si’ to.
While I waited for lunch, I set the bike up on the center stand to do a chain lube but the back end was down a slope causing the rear wheel to tip to the ground preventing me from rotating it. Seeing that I was trying to get it so I could elevate the rear wheel by tipping the front downward, a fellow stepped up and offered to hold the front down while I squirt lube of the chain. I thought that was really nice and it reminds me of the line “I’ve come to depend on the kindness of strangers” Was the from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”?
A whole fried fish arrived with tortillas and pretty much looked like what everyone else was having so I faked like I knew what I was doing and assembled my own fish tacos. Quite good actually, after all the careful work to make sure no hidden bones try to lodge themselves in my throat.
Coming through Tuxla Gutierrez I stopped to see if I could get in touch with Mauricio Garcia, a fellow rider who we met in San Cristobel back in April while returning from Belize, but no luck. I was texting with him right up until my Blackberry broke and now, without his phone number, I continue to wait for even one reply on Email. I may not have his correct address. Oh well. (Update: Mauicio will come tomorrow and it turns out there is apparently a MC rally here tomorrow, Oh boy! Just booked an extra night)
San Cristobel is a colorful and vibrant historic city with travelers from all over lingering and passing through. The trip back from Belize through here was too short and I am happy to be able to spend a couple of days here now.
In the town center, I spoke a while with a solo traveler from Italy attending a Spanish school just on the edge of town. He is learning one on one with a teacher for three separate hours a day and says he enjoys it. Cost is about $150 USD for the week and includes dance and cooking lessons. We agreed the price is even lower in Guatemala.
Be careful walking in town though, as there is uneven sidewalks and streets all over and steps lurking, waiting to jump up and trip even a cautious pedestrian. A woman with crutches and a new cast is a reminder.
I am still reverberating from maybe a combination of culture shock and homesickness or babe in the woods feelings. It’s like boot camp for long term traveling. Invigorating and exhausting at the same time.
Mexico is a land of extremes…

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Puerto Escondido

I got up at about 7 AM this morning, about the same time Mathew, one of my two Swiss twenty something roommates came back from a long night of partying.  Christian showed up as I was starting to check E-mail by the palm lined pool at the Hotel Rockaway in Puerto Escondido. Still quite tipsy and in a very good mood, he tried to explain what he could of his evening. From what I gathered, I would never have made it through unless I add 25 years more youth.
Here I meet Christian, Mathew, who offered a bed to me in thier four bed room. Leah is the surfer in this group. I was surprised to find that Chris and Mathew were NOT surfers. I mean, just look at them:

A few days ago I got to Puerto Escondido after a grueling but otherwise enjoyable 326 mile day from Zehuatenajo on the heals of the dozens of killings in and around Acapulco a couple of days prior.
To avoid the traffic and noisy confusing streets in Acapulco, I rode around to the north where military check points were on high alert. At one check point, I had the treat of a full body pat down and every storage bag on the bike searched for weapons or drugs. After a few friendly questions about my bike and trip, they smiled, Adios.
I thanked them for keeping us safe from the bad guys and went to lunch down the road.
A few kilometers later  I stopped for lunch and was invited to join a family celebrating their daughters (2nd from left) 17th birthday at the road side restaurant. Boy were they excited about the big ride from New York.
The fellow on the far right enouraged me to come stay at the Princess Hotel on the Acapulco strip where he is a doorman.
“…Yes, the one John Wayne stayed in…”

Though George, Steve and I were here in Puerto Escondido back in April, we did not spend the time that was needed to get a good feel for the place.

Now it’s hard to leave.

Local hooligans of PE
A band and dance at our hotel
Baby Sea turtle release day

There is a good mix of ages and nationalities. The largest outsider group is apparently Canadian and many of the snowbirds and permanent residents are retired people who are evidently feeling relaxed about there appearance, looking like well tanned Albert Einsteins in sacklike muscle shirts with beer bellies.
There is plenty for the youngsters of all ages here, though. As shown here the kids are all having fun:

                                                                      A water safety class being held at the pool at our hotel:
More pics:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Greetings from Playa la Ropa near Zehuatanejo, Mexico, a cool beach on the Mexican Riviera where I stayed three nights over six years ago. They apparently fenced the Cocodrillo (crocodile) so the can’t just meander around socializing with the Canadians.

The beach here seems to be losing some sand to the wave action of the Pacific. Some of the structures are already getting a licking from the surf.
The prices are up a bit as one would expect but other than that still a great place if you like moderate to fancy accommodations.
A cruse ship was anchored just a tad bit off the beach taking up a good percentage of the view and was leaving as I pulled in. A very relaxing place and perfect for spoiling me. It’s getting more and more difficult to up root myself and move on to the next location. Laziness is setting in and there is a hammock everywhere you look to accommodate that state of mind. A walk in the silky soft sand is the perfect foot massage and defoliant.

The news of the violent killings in Acapulco is a fly in the ointment and I am sad for all those affected. I would like to have that city behind me but I see no rush to do so. Never liked the city, too busy and obnoxious with it’s very confusing street patterns and constant horn blaring from taxis. Great bay though, very beautiful from almost any angle but in my opinion, the highlands at the south side is the one to see.

More pickies here

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Barra de Navidad, MX

I don't know why they have two valves for the water in Mexico. The temperature difference between them is non detectable.
Even the fancy pants Hotel Belair in Puerto Vallarta had little or no hot water most of the time.
The ride south to Barra de Navidad got off to an exciting start when I got caught in the lobster trap of steep cobblestone side roads in the highlands of PV. When cobblestone turned to a narrow dirt alley I knew I needed a "U" turn. If JoAnn were their navigating, she would have said “just keep going”!
In the process of coming about and while perpendicular to traffic direction, I was feeling the need for a few less inches of seat height when my left toes, being on the downhill side were suddenly assigned full responsibility for keeping the left listing bike from going over on the rough slippery cobbles. What seemed like 10 seconds was enough time to get things sorted and all for the small price of a pulled calf muscle in my left leg.
We had such a good time in PV, I didn’t want to leave but I always say that and always find another idyllic spot up the road a piece.

Mostly great twisties and scenic, the road to Barra de Navidid was uneventful unless you count literally running into a flock of Black Birds, Crows or Ravens an event.
Two large black birds in a flock flapped into my flight path, one careened off the top edge of the wind screen and the other less than a second later got a wingful of the forehead portion of my helmet. That alone is a reason to have a helmet cam.
A Canadian fellow walked up to me when I rolled into Barra de Navidad and asked, “Are you heading down or heading back north“? I thought it sweet he noticed I was a Norte Americano and took the first step, “Heading south still, how ‘bout yerself”?
“I live here…three years now, love it” Blair replied.

I am in the Hotel that Blair recommended at 350 Pesos (~ $30) per night one block from the beach, clean with secure parking just outside the room and wireless internet. How am I going to escape this place? …said while hunt and pecking 15 meters from the crashing breakers which are slowly nibbling valuable real estate over recent years.

Plenty left just down the beach….

A 30 something Norwegian couple struck up a conversation about the motorcycle and told of their rides that included two up camping with out a trailer. Lennart and Mari Lise also like to stay many days at places they like such as here and Barra de Nexpa, a day ride south on the Mexican Riviera. Lennart is heading to PV to do sound on a Norwegian reality show about kids at a fancy Hotel. Crappola TV as he says. Mari Lise has been traveling extensively on her own in Cambodia, Laos, and Ghana working with an NGO as a social worker. They are fabulous people and were privileged to sign the STOC Memorial TAG book as well as share a meal and drinks with me.

Today they are deep sea fishing. I wait to see what sea trophies surface.
Not much is familiar here but I feel comfortable and almost at home. Certainly safe as far as the people go, the danger is not the folks here.
A woman from Saskatchewan I sat with on the beach has been coming to Mexico since the sixties and commented about the violence near the border.
“…Gangs are killing each other in my home town in the bread basket of Canada, you don’t see that in the news”

One of the things I wanted to do while here is find and meet British world walker Karl Bushby. According to the latest updates at his website:
he was holed up for two years in the town just up the beach, Melaque waiting for an extended visa to continue his walk home to England through Russia. A really fascinating story if you get a chance to look it over.
Turns out the Visa has apparently been granted and he got a much needed funding source in the form of a sponsor. Ironically, he is currently in NYC and will be in LA for an interview soon according to his host and fellow Brit in Melaque Dan Patman who co-runs MEX-ECO tours. Dan was good enough to fill me in of the whereabouts of Karl and sign the TAG book.
More pics here:

A great interview here:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A ride after a sad goodbye to the gals...

Georgette and JoAnn are probably in the air heading home now, after a sad farewell to the our time togther in PV.
I really had a ball with them here. I decided to spend some time with Jose an Lety and will stay one more night here in PV at his house.

Later, Jose and I had some fun riding up the San Sebastian in the highlands east of PV. He rode his '89 Honda VTR 250 and led me down a long cobble stone and dirt road to a great little restaurant in the historic old mining town. Tight little cobbled streets with a gorgeous coffee smell wafting from the roasting process at the plantation just outside town lured us in further.
We visited Fausto on the way back down to PV. He wrote out his entry for the STOC TAG in Spanish and as it turns out he is quite the poet and singer/song writer as well as mechanic, custom home builder, and musician. He is trying to regain his emotional balance after a painful breakup with his girlfriend.

Jose wanted to beat the traffic heading back so we got a bit naughty through the lines of vehicles, something I would not do if I were alone. I'm back in the swing of the traffic patterns here. A good time to pass is whenever you can and it often happens at the topes where everyone is slowed to almost a stop. Bikes can often get a break at certain topes where there is a gap just big enough to ride through without the belly pan crashing down hard.
All in all, it's good to be alive.