Chapter 2- Gulf of Mexico
....Swine Flu and Gang Warefare - (ok maybe not).
Day 10 - Mcallen Texas to La Pesca Mexico - 320kms
Up at 0630, half hour coffee at Starbucks and Jay changes some money into Pesos. Security near the border is high on our minds. Lots of disbelief about our plan from people that we meet and dire warnings from all. We maintain that it's all hype until we see it for ourselves.
Hit the border around 0900 and we're careful to find the right offices. After some missed turns we're underway. I had warned Jay that there likely would be no english spoken here. He has a hard time believing this as we're so close to the border. Still, we need sign language and gestures to head in the right direction. We find the BIG building and it takes me an hour to process in. It's a tiring business of getting several sets of copies and bouncing between clerks for payments, forms and stamps:
I fight for the 90 day vehicle permit, but I have already told them I plan to carry on to Belize. They give me a resounding no and a 30 day pass. This means we'll have to re-process the bikes in when we re-enter Mexico later. Damn. Anyways, we have 30 days for the bikes and for us. Plenty o' time.
Jay is considerably faster getting through due to my coaching and we're done in about 1:40. No food yet and it's noon, this would become a common theme on the trip, as racking miles comes before everything else sometimes.
As soon as we hit Mexico, the auto-routing on the GPS is telling me to go every which way. Down dirt tracks, over bridges and left and right every block. The problem here is that there are no visible street signs 90% of the time, so I couldn't follow it even if I wanted to. The Garmin 60 is not the kind you find in a car, so I don't get the fancy graphics.
Again, safety is on our minds as we head into unknown neighborhoods and ride blindly into dusty alleys. So, as I would do many times on the trip, I follow the compass in the general direction that we want to go, and somehow we magically end up on the highway (#97) we were looking for. We could have been lost for hours, but trusting our gut on which way to go, rather what the goofy GPS unit is saying, saves our ass many times.
So, we start hauling ass down #97, happy as hell to be in another country yet again. There is a quasi-lane/shoulder on the right, and we quickly learn to stay over here as people blast by us. This has the added bonus of avoiding on-coming cars in your lane. They could care less if you are in the way and oncoming lanes are considered fair game to pass - whether you're there or not. It's not worth playing chicken, as we'll lose every time.
Jay striking some kind of random Zoolander pose. Note lane/shoulder. Our safe haven:
About 20 min in there is a secondary customs check. They argue that I'm missing a necessary stamp from customs. Here is your next lesson kids: compare all of your paper work with your buddy's. Look for inconsistencies. Fist thought is that I'll have to go back, 2nd thought is that he's looking for a bribe. Turns out it was neither, he stamps my papers and sends me on my way with a smile.
There is a town every mile or so and #101 leads us through San Fernando to a PEMEX. The other hwy 101 keeps going south without going through town. This is another neato feature of Mexican roads; there are often 2 routes with the same hwy #.
Hwy 101 to 180 east to 70. Finally heading to the coast. Beautiful rolling green hills, insane drivers, construction with gravel and bumpy drop-offs test the bikes. The KLR's love the Topes
and fly over them without slowing. Handy for passing.
Gulf of Mexico in sight! Sweet lagoon side Hotels beckon us from the roadway but we carry on to the ocean.
The ocean on the other side of the continent!
River near town:
Bustling downtown La Pesca:
The huts, restaurants, and Palapas were completely deserted:
We feast at a seaside restaurant and the gracious owner offers us a camping spot next to some Gazebos out back for about $10US. A few beers in our little grass hut as we study the guidebooks and watch the sunset.
Mmmm, fresh fried fish and shrimp for under $4:
Go here to camp and grab some good cheap grub. Just don't use the Bathroom. The fact that I still ate after visiting the John proved my mental toughness.
Tent with a view:
After a while, my cell phone has me wondering about those Malaria Med side-effects:
Day 11 - Nov 18th 2009 - La Pesca to Tamiahua -422kms
Up at 0630 after tossing and turning overnight. Still cloudy and a bit of a chill. Rolling through dusty towns and looking for Edano which bypasses Tampico towards Papantla.
We cross the Tropic of Cancer. Jay likes this.
Navigation with my GPS is a test in patience. In Mex, with a town every 100 yards, my screen shows all. Zoomed out, you see the big cities, zoomed in, you see a half mile ahead. Most of the time, you see this:
Hwy #180 leads right into Tampico which is a hornet's nest of shitty, multi-lane traffic snarl. We are trying to find a route back to #180 but there are no signs to be seen and we need to stop and look at the grid on the GPS.
I am cruising a side street at about 40kms/hr. There is a car going the same way about a block ahead. I don't have a stop sign and I do my usual glance either way before entering the intersection ahead. In a flash, a car screams into view from my left. I grab as much front brake as I can. The bike does a nose dive, practically doing a stoppie. It looks like a near miss, then BAM! my front tire makes contact.... the bike immediately smashes into the ground to my left... I skid for about 8 feet on the hard, abrasive concrete road. The bike comes to a stop still running, and I thumb the switch and shut her down.
Immediately I get a sharp shooting pain from my left hand. Jay comes in over the comms " Are you OK? talk to me!" He saw the whole thing from 40 feet back. He's there in a flash and we heave the bike upright and onto it's stand.
The intersection, facing my direction of travel, complete with spectators:
Now the fun begins. The driver and his family stuck around and I ask right away if everyone is OK. Of course they are, they're in a car! Anyway, he speaks some english and says a few words before getting on his cell phone. What now? We get my bike out of the way. Locals gather around in interest.
Before too long the driver of the red Cavalier, a guy around my age, tells me his mechanic figures the damage will cost around $80US. If I pay now I might be able to avoid Police involvement. This doesn't sit too well with me and I tell him to hold on while I talk to my insurance agent - (Sandborn's out of Texas). Jay grabs from ice from a nearby stand (for my hand) and I ask him to call the insurance folks. Time goes by and he is on hold waiting for an agent that speaks english.
Our friend with the Cavalier with his back to us:
The douchebag, (ehem, I mean, other party) grows restless and calls in the transit Police (quasi cops). They arrive and immediately give the driver hearty, high-spirited hand shakes and hellos. I on the other hand, receive an ice-cold reception. They ask for all of my papers.
Jay is still on hold at $3 a min.
Much banter goes back and forth and I can see this is not going my way. My phrase book gets pushed into service and the guys' mom shows up to help translate. The ambulance arrives and I sign off to allow them to leave without treating me. After a half hour, Jay gives up on getting through to Sandborn's.
Spot the missing plastic and soft ground:
In the end, they tell me without a doubt that the accident is my fault, (even though I was on the right and traveling slower). They even go as far as to say that I am traveling down a one-way street. Ha! I look ahead and see a stop sign facing my direction of travel and the end of the block.
I am clearly out-gunned here, 4 people telling me I'm at fault and me having no Spanish or knowledge of Mexican traffic laws. The mom says I can go to the station and pay more, or settle it here for much less. You can see where this is going. In the end, the urge to get out of this shitty town, avoid the courts, more bribes, the cop shop and a lengthly delay wins over. I cough up $120US for "damages" - (a scratch on his right rear bumper), and a "Ticket".
The cops are nice enough to guide us out of town and back to #180 and the toll bridge.
We need an alternate destination and spot Tamiahua on the coast. The bike is running Ok, but I have tweaked steering, a smashed upper fairing and road rash on my crash bars, mirror, front fender, gps, clothing and luggage.
We carry on with our detour through rough, pot-holed winding roads and a river washout. We find Tamiahua and stop at the first Hotel we see. Super Friendly owner, 300 Pesos and a deluxe room. My hand is in a fair amount of pain, but the bike still carries on. The crash bars did an amazing job, as did my armored jacket and pants. Without any of these items, I have no doubt that I would still be in Tampico, in much worse shape.
The lush, narrow, scenic road to Tamiahua. Can you believe I'm still stopping for photos?:
Safe parking at the Hotel:
Jay and make our way riverside for a very good cheap seafood dinner and a well-deserved beer.
One second later, I would have missed him by a mile, one second earlier and I could have been paralyzed. It makes you think....
I start to miss my wife even more than usual at this point, but I decide to keep the crash a secret until I see her. Better for her not to worry.. I drift off to sleep, counting my blessings..