November 8, 2006

Headed South - San Carlos, Mexico

This grand adventure started in Phoenix, Arizona on November 4th. I arrived after an all night flight from Alaska, around lunchtime. It was 10 degrees in Alaska so I was glad to get out of there. My riding partner Doug has been on the road for about a week, and showed up within a half hour of my arrival. We began immediately working on my bike. Doug did a full servicing of the bike (fluid change etc.), my brother Todd helped with some custom work. Most notably a windscreen extender that keeps my helmet from getting buffeted by the wind at speed. And I worked on figuring out what to take, what not to take, and how to fit in on the bike. It was the first time I'd been with the bike since last winter, so it took a bit of time to figure out how it was all going to work.  In the end, Doug and I were on the road within 24 hours of landing in Arizona. We traveled on crazy interstate roads to some friends of Doug's in Tucson, and spent the night there. It worked out perfectly, as it allowed us to get some things on the bike and our communications system worked out.

Early on Monday November 5th we headed south, just as the sun was coming up and a full moon getting low. South from Tucson to Nogales was uneventful and the roads were good. We were averaging speeds between 60 and 80 mph. Not because we wanted to go fast, but that was what traffic was doing. Nogales is a border town and after a short time, we were through the border and the reality and magnitude of this trip finally set in for both of us. We were going south of the border. It certainly wasn't the US anymore.

We made it on good roads to Guaymas, Mexico by 5pm and just in time for rush hour traffic.  We had our first real taste of "full on" pandemonium traffic. It was out of hand with cars, people, and animals going in every direction with no sense of order. Full concentration to avoid an accident was absolutely necessary and even at that, we had a few close calls and accidentally ran two red lights.

None the less we camped in a small town outside of Guaymas called San Carlos. Beautiful town right on the beach. After some local tacos and margaritas we slept the night away.

By morning we packed up and were ready for a long day of riding, when we happened across a few other guys on bikes from Flagstaff, Arizona that were riding around Baja and the "free zone" of Mexico, which is north of Guaymas. After sharing some stories we learned they had planned on going much further south but were stopped at a roadblock and needed a specific permit to travel through, that basically says they don't intend to sell their bikes while in Mexico. To get this permit they needed the original registration for each bike. They only had one and the Federales would not accept a photocopy of the other.  It got me thinking about where my registration was, and I had no idea.  I have loads of copies, but, hadn't seen the original, which turned out was in an old tank bag, back at my brothers place in Arizona. I learned this after unloading all my saddle bags and going through all my paperwork. So without that, we are stuck, right here in San Carlos. A few phone calls to my brother Todd in Phoenix and he tracked the original form down, and had it shipped via DHL to Guaymas. The quickest they could get it to me is 2 days.

So after one day of good riding, we have two days of waiting. Certainly a bummer but fortunately Doug and I both know that things come up while traveling and that is the way it goes. In the meantime it has offered some space and time to work on the bikes and sort out small issues that will make the traveling better. I had some work to do on my comms system. Doug has been repairing a broken speedometer. And the afternoons are spent at the beach. It is warm and sunny and a great spot to be laying over if we have to, and we do. Documents should be here on Thursday we hope, and we should be back on the road south.

Everyone we come across is very interested in our trip and has a lot of questions. I feel like I'm in a Jimmy Buffet song. Yesterday we met so many characters that we both had a laugh at the end of the day. A day that started as a bummer, turned out to be fabulous. We even explored the local area some. It felt so great to be on the bikes in hot weather in shorts and a t-shirt rather than full on riding armor. The most interesting people we met were a couple that had done the same trip we are doing, but in 1985! They were the second motorbike to cross the Darian Gap, where even today there are no roads. Many places they went, people had never even seen a motorcycle. They offered some great advice, and over 20 years later, they still have no regrets. Their enthusiasm for our journey was infectious.

So for now, San Carlos and hanging out at the beach. Hopefully tomorrow we'll be back on the road, headed south. We are 500 miles into this journey and many more to go.

Time to go have a margarita.