Border crossings are an exciting time. No matter how many times youíve been to Mexico, theyíre always good for raising your blood pressure a notch or two. Turn the emerald every which way into the sun, and you have a different facet on why a crossing into Mexico is always interesting. Lots of paperwork, lots of lines. Strange language, to some. Signs with words you studied in high school but forgot. Youíve laid out your passport and checked it and your license, plus your registration. Unless you went to the web to get your permiso, which is so easy it is the smart thing to do.
Squared ourselves into the La Quinta in preparation for a dawn bridge crossing. Time for dinner. Iíve made two contacts to meet at the border, one on each side. In McAllen, my buddy Pancho Ė Frank Ė is coming to meet us at Republic of the Rio Grande, Restaurant & Cantina. Excellent place, not far from 23rd street, the straight shot into Mexico. Pancho was on the trip to Creel and Batopilas for the off-road training taught by Ramey Stroud. Iíve seen him in action, roadside, taking apart a KLR and fixing the electronic thing-a-ma-ging to make it purr again. The man knows Mexico, even works part time for Motodiscovery as a tour meister. Iíve been behind him in the sand, the fun part of the road from the turnoff from Creel to the rim of the Copper Canyon. We both had to pull over to catch our breath. And laugh. He thought about making this run with us. Then thought better of it.
The other link up is in the morning, on the other side of the bridge. Arte, as he is also known here, will be waiting for us on the bridge at sunrise, on his KLR. Arte recently completed a fantastic ride report including a stop in Guanajuato, where he went to school. He is going to take us to the aduana and then to his house for breakfast. You can forget getting your paperwork and being past the border as fast as you can. Weíre stopping for chilaquiles, gracias.
Over at the Republic, we find dinner and we find Pancho. Over small talk, I break out the map and pull Frank to the side, looking for route ideas. He thinks we can make it as far as Ciudad Victoria for sure, possibly Ciudad Monte. Some people like to stop at the Hacienda Santa Engracia not too far out of Victoria, but thatís not appealing to me. Iíd like to make it as far inland as possible the first day. Some people start to look for accommodations when the sun is three fingers above the horizon. That isnít a bad idea, as long as you donít have a flat or break down late in the day. Then you deal with the dark and do what you have to do.
We all like seasoned motorcycle people, and genuine nice guys. That defines Pancho. He charms my two riding buddies with a story that gets them to stop eating mid-forkfull Ė there has been two daylight bank robberies in Reynosa very recently, one at the big mall in town. Sterett and Mark look over at me. I raise an eyebrow and shrug, almost as an aside and a signal for Ďcan happen anywhereí. Then Pancho opines about the kidnapping of a church friendís husband, who has not been seen since. He isnít trying to scare anyone, just bringing the news on the emerging climate at the border and elsewhere. Maybe Iím lucky, but Iíve heard of car accidents too, but in all my years of driving Iíve never seen a major crash or even two cars bumping into each other, except for the occasions where Iíve come upon the aftermath. Same as the turmoil that the news covers in Mexico. Iím not interested in the business of the narcos, so Iíll stay out of their way. If I find myself in the mix, it boils down to fate.
Back at the hotel, I canít sleep. Iím like the little kid I was in 1969, getting ready to get in the family station wagon in West Redding, Connecticut and drive out west to Yellowstone to see places Iíve only read about in old copies of National Geographic. Its Mexico, and Iíve been here before, but like I told you, Iím an addict.
Frank, center, with Subcomandante Marcos (L) and Sterett (R), outside the Republic of the Rio Grande, the night before the crossing
Subcomandante checks his R1200 for all manner of loose screws. The only loose screws he finds our in our own minds. Notice Mark has quickly become Subcomandante Marcos, a title I have given him because he has earned our friendship and respect. I will ride with him anywhere, any time.
Republic of the Rio Grande. Love it. Right across the street from the La Quinta, although crossing that street was more dangerous than anything (almost) I encountered in Mexico. Thank you Pancho for taking the time to have a beer with us. Motorcycling makes friends forever. You rock Frank.
Arte and his KLR. Here's another advrider guy who's ride reports I devour. Arte contacted me as I've mentioned and offered to host us at his house in Reynosa after getting the visas at the aduana. Arte is going to promise me to meet me in Reynosa on my own KLR soon and we're going with his buddies back up to Real de Catorce and check out the back roads. My buddy Scott (La Outback Trail) did a ride report as well on that area, and between Arte, Scott, and Richard, who does the MexTrek each fall in the Galeana area, I am pumped.
Arte, you have a place to stay in San Antonio if you ever want to come a few hours north and do some of Richard's Hill Country events, such as the Texas Adventure Ride, or even explore the Big Bend area. We love you, man.
Check out the huge lines at the aduana. Not. We were literally the ONLY people in the building that Friday morining. But I'm still happy we had permisos in tank bag, as we only needed the quick tourist visa.
If you have any doubt about how to go about getting your permiso online, I've posted quite a bit about it in Trip Planning, or you can PM me. You'll have your permiso at your door in 3 days. Love it.
On the way to Arte's house in Reynosa for breakfast. I always love the first hour in Mexico. I feel that I'm home. Maybe I'm hopelessly in love with the place. I really do feel at home there. Sorry, no narcos or problems to report this morning. I was so happy to be in Mexico and be on the way to a great day of riding and fellowship with Arte and his family. I can't say enough about Arte - can anyone be your brother so firmly and so fast? I never had a real brother, but motorcycling has brought me many brothers who I would do anything for.
Subcomandante Marcos out front next to Arte. I always wonder what the people I ride with are thinking about. These first few hours, if I haven't ridden with someone much, I watch their riding style, their spacing, how they signal. Then I adjust. No two people are the same. And on the first day, there is a lot going on. We rode to the border together from San Antonio, but this is Mexico, one wrong turn by one person and a different turn by another, and you have a fresh problem. I hope you have'nt lost your riding buddy in Mexico or anywhere else. I have a plan to deal with that I'll get to later if I remember it.
Sterett on the Wing and a Prayer, I mean Gold Wing. (Is it Goldwing, GoldWing, or what?) I don't want to sound too jealous, but did the beemers get any attention in Mexico? No, everyone wanted to crowd around the GoldWing and gawk. Sterett loved the whole thing, especially the BMWs not getting any attention. Unless of course he told them to go look at our bikes, out of compassion for us.
Breakfast at Arte & Paloma's wonderful home in Reynosa. I can't tell you how much I appreciate these wonderful people. Delicious chilaquiles, jugo de naranja, cafe (puro, por favor). I let loose on my spanish, much to the amusement of Paloma. We go over maps with Arte much like we did with Pancho. We are totally relaxed and making a solid connection with an amazing family.
Let me stress one thing here. From my observation, Reynosa was a study in normalcy. Like every city I've been in in Mexico. People going about their daily lives, making a living, shopping, busy with raising a family. From the news, we in America think its the OK corral, or people lined up on the river trying to cross over. Its NOT HAPPENING. The restaurants are full, the folks are in the centro, the parks and museums are full, and its business as usual. Are there elements of South Central LA? You know the answer to that. But that's everywhere.
Arte and Paloma don't need a new child, but I'm ready to move in.
After breakfast, Arte, who had taken a chunk of time off from work, led us out of Reynosa to the highway south towards Ciudad Victoria. He pulled over to wish us well, and we gave him a hug. Did I tell you I love that guy? He's my brother.
We gunned south starting at about 9:30 AM. Here is the route. We were hoping to make Victoria, with Ciudad Monte a hopeful choice. We were lucky, in a strong side wind we rode hard, making Ciudad Valles in late afternoon. As I mentioned, we didn't know exactly where we would lay our heads that night, we just had the Guia Roji and the Bicimapas and the Lonely Planet, and faith.
Somewhere around the bend in the YucatŠn, was this