I was up earlier than the others, feeling like I was made of lead, intestines rumbling and feeling weak. Made my way down the street and sat in the cold air of the plaza, thankful I hadn't gotten violently ill the night before. I carried the laptop and posted a single photo for my friends to know I was still kicking.
I went back up the hill and eventually got my bike back to the hotel while the others were getting up and about. Packed it early, and then we congregated for breakfast at a little cafe on the square. I forced down an apple pastry and a capuccino, as well as a bottle of water.
Rob and Jimmy were going to part ways with us and spend another couple of days before returning, and I had debated staying with them, but in the end decided to stick with Hank, pairs being easier to deal with when riding and hotels.
We said our adios' and parted, riding up the cobblestone streets out into the sunshine and onto main roads, our plan being lunch in Matehuala and then on to Saltillo. I shot some GoPro footage, but I have to say I've been very frustrated with it this trip. I brought 6 batteries, and when fully charged am only getting 5 to 20 minutes run time, and they always die right before something really interesting comes up. It seems even leaving the camera off all day and then turning it on for interesting sights, the battery pukes. In addition, I've been getting condensation heavily in the lens housing every day, no matter how many times I dry it out and clean it.
So, my video footage consists of, (A.) Interesting footage completely ruined by condensation on the lens, or (B.), Footage of boring crap just before fantastic scenery arrives and the battery dies. Go figger.
Stills from the GoPro footage:
The caballero guy was drunk and trying to be helpful upon our arrival the day before, and was still drunk and trying to be helpful when we left
Anyway, the air was very cool this morning - eye watering - as we merged onto the highway southwest to Queretaro and then eventually north towards Saltillo. Blasting 85 mph for long periods, the vistas changed and yet remained the same. From high plains lower into the desert, the familiar crumbling buildings painted with Corona signs and partially completed concrete buildings with rebar standing above the roof lines. Burros, horses, cattle and sheep grazing on the highway medians, every so often a broken down Ford pickup on the side of the road - of which I've counted 10 to 1 being maroon colored - and the groups of locals waiting at the lonely bus stops with plastic grocery bags for luggage.
It felt great to be riding right behind Hank and not 75 yards back. Being the tail end of a high speed train is not easy. You have to watch all the bikes ahead of you, as Hank sped, split and wove through traffic, keeping an eye on the three bikes in front of you and trying to gauge what they're about to do, an eye on the cars, trucks and buses all around you, the various cars, semi's, dogs, potholes, topes and people along the roadside and running across the road, then try to make the gaps in traffic before they close, which rarely happened. As well, when you pass through the toll booths, everyone ahead has waited and had time to adjust glasses, clean shields, put away money and wallets, etc, but as you exit the booth they all take off like the start of a motocross race. Got a little frustrating at times but that's just part of the game. Let's just say it was a hell of a lot less stress and I actually got a few minutes now and then to look at scenery.
One thing I've found interesting has been the conversations, or rather lack thereof, with the gas station attendants. For me, the concept of having someone pump your gas is a new one. The routine being, pull up to pump, get off bike, take tank bag off, point to Red Premium and say "Rojo", have the attendant say "Roja?", to which I say "Si, gracias" then attendant then asks me in Spanish "how much" (at least I assume that's what he or she is asking) and I then point up to the sky, or raise my hand like water level rising, or some other inane thing, but they understand. Or as a couple of them have done, let me go through an entire hand signal routine complete with tap dancing, and they then say "You mean full?" in English.
At any rate, I try to have some discourse, which entails "Buenos Dias", "Muy Bueno" and then shortly after, "No Habla Espanol". It's been interesting as some attendants have worked in the US and enjoy speaking in English. Today when I pulled in for gas, three attendants came over and began trying to communicate with me about travel, the bike and such, all in Espanol. One finally said "Mexico bueno?" so that I could understand, to which I said loudly "Viva Mexico!!!". They all burst into smiles and laughter and we had a good laugh. I drove out to the sounds of "Adios Amigo" and "Buen Viaje".
When we broke for lunch in Matehuala, Sherry wasn't doing well. She'd had a back muscle go wonky and was miserable. She medicated, and Hank said he'd decided to head for Linares and then Santiago, which would put us later in the day, but a much more interesting road. I had finally begun to feel better physically and that was certainly fine with me.
We headed north until finally reaching the highway east for Galeana and Linares, the first mile or so being talcum powder dirt from road construction. A water truck had just heavily doused the deep powder, and I watched Hank weaving and wobbling in the slick, as did I until I was able to get over into the oncoming lane. When we finally got up into the mountains I was treated to one of the best roads I've yet ridden. Super twisty, high drop-offs, no railings, spectacular mountain views and one heck of a ride! I don't think I've ever scraped so much metal and boot rubber. Had a ball! Tense, but a ball
And of course the GoPro died just as I hit the good stuff.
The beginning of a fantastic ride
Don't miss this road if you ride the area.
We finally crested the mountain range and headed downhill, the eastern side of the mountains much, much warmer than the western side. We passed through several checkpoints, through large X-ray machines and steely-eyed machine gun toting policia and military. There will be many more between here and Laredo.
It had gotten very hot, but we eventually arrived in Santiago, just south of Monterrey. As we rolled into the old downtown plaza, there was much activity in preparation for a happening on the square. In each town we've been, other than Bernal, there has been something going on.
The hotel faced the square and the street had been cordoned off, but we were aloowed to pass to the hotel, but had to unload quickly and get the bikes into the garage, as they did not want the bikes there.
As we piled off the bikes, there was a high school band practicing in the plaza, playing hard core military type drum music. Hank went inside and Sherry laid down on the sidewalk, probably from her back pain... or maybe the meds
After dumping gear in the room, it appeared we were the only guests in the beautiful place. Hank had been told that the hot water had to be fired up and it would be a while before we could shower. I tried to get online but the password wasn't working.
The suffering continues
Hank knocked and I told him we'd meet in the square. There was a stage set up, as well as chairs. Tonight was a formal gathering in front of the church, dignitaries and the mayor giving a speech.
We walked the town for a bit, listening to the reverberations of the speeches and then the mariachi music. A fireworks finale was the signal for our dinner.
As we ate, the dignitaries filed in in groups, going downstairs to a private meeting room.
The town was very pretty and quiet. Hank said there had been a drug violence incident in the town a couple of years before, and the tourist shops had moved away. He also said there was only the one hotel, and from the looks of it being empty I guess the tourism had left it lonely as well.
Tomorrow Laredo and then home. This has been a great trip.