or Why My Girlfriend’s Mother Won’t Speak To Me.
It’s all about timing.; The intersection of our lives with events transpiring around us. Some might call it luck. There’s a component that hinges on one’s perception, thought, and action as well. Making lemons out of lemonade and all that sort of thing.
My girlfriend and I had been planning a 2-up motorcycle ride to the beaches on the east coast of Mexico for weeks. As we were about to depart, a minor but essential piece of the bike went missing, and we spent almost a week hunting down a replacement. By then, Hurricane Richard was threatening the east coast so we waited a few more days to see what track it would take. The best laid plans of mice and men came back to bite us on the ass, and we changed our route to the west coast of Michoacan The first day’s ride would take us South from San Miguel de Allende towards Ciudad Hidalgo where we would turn west towards the large town of Morelia.
I’d ridden that last 70 km into Morelia last spring and it’s one of my personal favorite motorcycling roads in Mexico. It consists of about 60 km of uninterrupted twists and turns with no diminishing radiuses that might catch you off guard, very little traffic, nicely cambered pavement, and no topes, (speed bumps), to speak of. As we neared the intersection at which we would turn west to this rider’s Valhalla my trouble sensors prick up as we pull up to a line of stopped traffic that stretches as far as we can see around the next bend.
Well, it’s Mexico, so I pull into the deserted oncoming lane and ride to the front of the line where Federale police cars abound and I learn that we’ve intersected the route of La Carrera Mexicana, a road race of mostly classic cars and motorcycles.
With all the delays prior to our departure I had spaced out the race itinerary even though I had three friends riding two Nortons, and a BMW in it. They had described their schedule to me within the last week, but that was when we had been planning to ride to the East coast, so it went in one ear and out the other. Now I’m stuck in a major traffic jam on a seldom-travelled road. Even after the racers pass us, I’m imagining the long lines of spectator’s cars as they return to Morelia after the race. I’m cursing my bad luck and bad timing as the police release us to continue on.
Thus begins a series of passes and high speed riding, and I try to work my way to the front of the pack of race support vehicles, trailers, and tourists. It’s working fairly well and I eventually make the turn west to the stretch I’d been anticipating. We round a curve with an overlook to our left with a spectacular view when a bevy of federales wave us off to the side of the road This is where the fun stretch was supposed to have begun, but it is also the start of an unrestricted section of the race in which all traffic is banned so the racers can utilize both lanes of the twisty mountain road. The last of the racecars are being green flagged for the timed start as we wait in the parking turnout.
I’m again cursing my bad timing in arriving here today as I ponder the possibilities and probabilities. I watch the last three racecars line up and I began to formulate a plan. Dianna is about to remove her helmet and light a cigarette when I tell her to wait a minute. I see a window of opportunity begin to open, quietly start my engine and creep up beside another motorcyclist who is obviously part of a race support team. I’m figuring I’m friends with three riders in this race so who’s to say I’m not graced with the same official imprimatur? Besides I’m gonna buy those boys a beer tonight when I see them in Morelia. Right? Works for me.
There’s a federale in a Mustang cop car lined up to follow the racers and lead the race support vehicles, signifying the end of today’s race, thus opening the course up to normal traffic. The other motorcyclist and Dianna and I are right behind him. There’s a lag of a minute or two before the cop in the Mustang pulls out, with us right behind him. As we leave I hear a race official announce that only “stickered” vehicles are allowed to follow. I nod gravely to him as we accelerate and the federale begins using both lanes, entering the curves wide, cutting the inside corners, and exiting in full acceleration. I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t put the extra 2 pounds of air in my tires for the 2-up tour. I respectfully defer to the other motorcyclist as he and I assume the two front positions in this “following” race. We arrive shortly at a crash scene but as the racecar driver and his navigator are giving the “thumbs up”, I accelerate when the police chase car does, leaving the other motorcyclist behind at the scene of the crash. We begin an amazing ride with the cop leading the way with no one in my review mirror.
I’m smiling big time when we sweep into the apex of a curve strewn with gravel. I brake, shift down, hold my breath, and adjust our trajectory to thread our way through the least impaired path. Whew! My smile’s gone now. I’m wondering how much more of that to expect on this ride and begin to ask myself if I should be riding like this with my girlfriend on the back of my bike. I don’t know how valid the empirical reasoning I applied in the microseconds that elapsed is, but as I exit the curve I accelerate at full throttle toward the next one. Somewhere deep inside I’m telling myself that as long as I stay behind the police chase car I can safely use both lanes, thus improving the odds that I will safely navigate any further obstacles than I could were I confined to a single lane. So began the ride of our lives as we swoop into and out of a seemingly endless series of perfectly cambered turns.
We arrive at another race check point where the last few cars begin another timed segment. I idle behind the Federale police car and turn to Dianna and say “We are so f@#king lucky!” through my full face helmet. Later she confided that she thought I said “You are so f@#king ….” and she wondered what she could have possibly done. I thought the smile on my face would have conveyed to her what I was really thinking, (even though obscured by said helmet), but regardless we were both having the ride of our lives.
When the last race car pulled out of this checkpoint, we were off again with a couple of race support vehicles behind us. We lost them within a mile or two, then came up behind a race car that was having mechanical problems, limping along using a single lane. We followed for a mile or so and I was bummed to be back to a normal riding speed. Then “Hallelujah!”, the cop passes the race car and we’re back in the puddin’.
I’m focused on the road, timing my shifts and rpms to provide maximum performance and control. Dianna asked me later that night if I saw all the long lens cameras and kid’s cell phone cameras pointed at us as the spectators waved. I knew there were spectators and photographers as we rounded a few turns but had to admit that my attention was focused solely on the two edges of the road and the approaching turns ahead, while scoping for debris on the surface. I remember passing one place where I briefly glanced to my left and remembered pulling off there last spring to take a photograph. That was my one memory of the landscape we’d traveled during this section that wasn’t confined to my peripheral vision. When I wasn’t totally focused on the riding I was aware that my facial muscles were ironed into a sh#t eating grin.
Dianna said later that night that she wasn’t fully cognizant that when we started this ride we were essentially in a race. She reflected for a moment on the safety of our undertaking as we leaned steeply into a turn and she thought if she had stuck her tongue out it would scrape the pavement. Then she decided that I probably knew what I was doing, swallowed the bile in her throat, and trusted that what was meant to be, was meant to be. What was meant to be this day was one of the most fun days of our lives, even if it was a bit scary for her.
We approached Morelia after leaving the restricted section, passed a few racecars, and chatted briefly with one driver while we were both stopped at a red light. When we arrived at the plaza and parked, I inspected my tires, which had heretofore about 1/8th of an inch at the outer edges that hadn’t been scrubbed, and saw that they were now worn all the way to the edges. Capping off what turned out to be a perfect end to the day, contingent upon our perfect timing, we found Art, Charlie, and George who’d raced officially in today’s Carrerra Mexicana, enjoying cervezas at the first sidewalk café we came to. Glasses were raised, toasts made, and we all smiled at our great fortune, friendship, and how much we love Mexico.
Sometimes your timing can be perfect when you least expect it to be. I remember how heartsick I felt as I found myself in a traffic jam on one of my favorite roads in Mexico, and how my expectation turned around in a blink of an eye. I think it was Gandalf in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” who, when chastised by Bilbo for being late to his birthday party, replied: “A wizard is never late, but always arrives just on time”. Today we were wizards.
Some of the scenery I missed that day, (taken last spring along this section of road)
The racers, Charlie, George, and Art with Dianna.
Charlie, the author, and Art.
Two of our heroes bikes, (Charlie crashed that day, so his was being worked on).
One of the racecars.
More racecars apres race.
After race game of checkers.
The after race scene in Morelia's plaza.
Morelia after dark.
We leave for Patcuaro, then Zihuatanejo next.