Archive for March, 2015|Monthly archive page

Texas – No Simple Place

Turned out it didn’t take long to find an interesting, warm, and inexpensive place; as it turns out interesting, warm, and inexpensive are three worthy but insufficient indicators.

I’ve had an interest in Padre Island just off Corpus Christi for a while. I had contacted the park when I was in El Salvador. I was told that aside from Easter, it was pretty quiet but on that weekend the place is full. Given its name, sort of like church. Arriving there before Easter, I thought I’d check out the place, after all, I’ve been carrying unused camping gear for over 8500 kilometers.

Good thing I had my head set on camping, the hotels on the island are expensive. What you’d get for $80 is what you’d pay $15 for in Mexico, a $120 room is still very basic and $240 doesn’t get you anywhere close to luxury. Then again, the hundreds of huge pickups pulling expensive fishing boats should have been a sign this is not a spot for paupers. Or, the likes of me.

It didn’t take long to find plenty of spots for camping. However, every spot is on a beach. And I mean every spot, there’s not one place that offers sheltered camping, which is what I’m accustomed to doing. It’s been a long while since I’ve camped on a beach, and that was when I was young . . . and inebriated. But what the heck, eh?

The first thing I noticed was that vehicles are allowed directly on the beach, something people are shot on sight for on Prince Edward. I know the ecology on PEI is very fragile, to do what they do on Padre Island would be impossible – the beaches would simply disappear. They’ve been doing this here for years, and the beaches are still here so I suspect the ecology is quite different? I’m no ecologist; wish I knew more.

I paid my fee and rode my bike along the beach for a few kilometers looking for a spot. There was a strong breeze but the sport of tent flying aside, I was pretty much set up in 30 minutes; it’s tricky setting up a tent on a windy beach. Lots of campers, some with small RV’s, were spaced well apart but stretched as far as the eye could see. There were a few small tents, but most were family sized. Lots of people walking around and plenty of vehicles were slowly going up and down the beach.

It wasn’t until after sunset that the winds hit, and they hit hard. At one point I thought my tent was destined to crumble. For fear of the poles snapping, at one point I had to lean full body weight against the side of the tent. I pushed my back up and held it in place; this wasn’t the listening to the waves gently rolling on the shore I had in mind. I was, to put it mildly, a tad nervous. Two or three hours later, the wind shifted. This was a slight improvement as I no longer feared the tent blowing over, but the shift did result in some serious flapping. It sounded like the nightmare of a good sailor.

By morning things had settled down, but my plan to say on the beach for a few days had been sand blasted away. I packed up and rode down the beach then down the road looking for a bathtub and a bed. I didn’t get far before I the indicator on the bike showed I had an electrical problem. Opps.

With help from George, a fellow V-Strom rider, we analyzed the code on the monitor and diagnosed the possibility the bike had a regulator/rectifier problem. All the Suzuki dealerships in Texas seem to be closed on Monday (gone ridin’) so I took off anyway with the hope that the battery wouldn’t overheat or fry the stator.

A few hours later, I stopped at an isolated quiet windswept Texas crossroads to try and fix the GPS, it was only working intermittently. While I was fiddling around, three people happened by and asked if I needed help – how many ways are there to interpret that?

Anyway, I rigged up a new connection for the GPS and took off. All of a sudden, I noticed that the monitor wasn’t sending out an electrical problem message; the GPS worked pretty well too. Go figure. Don’t know how many know the story of Robert Johnson and what happened at his crossroads, suffice it to say I didn’t meet the devil and still can’t play the guitar, but my bike runs! And, three people I didn’t know stopped to see if I needed help.

Gratitude.

Next, New Orleans . . . who knows what the next corner brings,,eh?,

 

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Adios Mexico; Hello Texas.

Leaving Tamiahua wasn’t easy on at least three counts. I had deep mixed feelings about leaving Mexico, I wasn’t sure what to do after Mexico, and I couldn’t get to my bike.

I got up before dawn which, when riding in temperatures that can reach over 40 in the afternoon, is best practice. In that reality, you’d think it would be easy not to ride in the afternoon. However, adjusting behavior patterns to accommodate changing realities is no small task. House me wakes up after sun is up, scratches ass, drinks coffee, finds and eats food, packs up and leaves. Road me must pack at night before sleep, postpone coffee and food, put ass on bike and ride as sun is rising. These small adjustments result in huge benefits. The challenge is remembering road me and forgetting house me.

So, I gathered the gear and quietly went to load the bike. However, the big rusty gates to the courtyard were locked tighter than a zoo full of dangerous animals. That’s a good thing to secure a bike, not so good if you want the bike unsecured. I looked for someone to unlock the gates, but nothing. I went back to the room to twiddle my thumbs. Finally, the roosters got the sun to start rising and so too the sleepy hotel employee. I loaded the gear and headed out, into the thickest fog I’ve seen in years.

I couldn’t see four meters in front of me, but since I was itchy to ride I tractored on in first gear. I figured the sun would quickly dissipate the problem. However, when you don’t know where you’re going in the first place, not being able to see rarely helps. I always figured I’ve been white-caning my way through this world anyway, so what the heck. Then, the bumpy pavement turned into no pavement at all. My stomach churned a bit wondering if somehow I’d taken the wrong road, or for that matter, any road at all. I could somewhat see the ditch and fields beside me. Then, as Earth spun toward the sun, fears of hitting donkeys, pot holes, topes or bandits slowly spun out of my head. Soon I was back on pavement. Phew.

I even ran in second gear, then third gear before I was frightened back to second. Then, the road disappeared. No road at all except for something that may have been a road at one time slanted down to a fairly quickly flowing river. If there used to be a bridge, it wasn’t there now. I looked to the other side and was able to see a man looking at me. Not much help there. I had no idea if the the bottom was full of slippery rocks, smooth rocks or was 10 or 30 centimeters deep, or worse.

Then, a this can only happen in Mexico moment. Out of the fog, on the other side of the river, it appeared. A taxi. Not a Hummer taxi or a four wheel drive, just the typical little Nissan red and white religious icon dangling beater. The only odd thing is that it wasn’t beeping its horn.

The man looked up at the taxi, I looked across at the taxi, the taxi seemed to look down at the river. It hesitated a few seconds then tiptoed down and dipped one front wheel in, then the other, then it made its way across. The water was just over the floorboards, it clutched its way up the rocks and rambled by me.

The man on the other side looked over as if to say, right buddy, your turn. I went to the edge and made the plunge. I’ve been through much deeper water on a bike, the bottom was clean, no rocks, and the exit was muddy but no problem. The man smiled, I sighed, and proceeded up the other side and onto a meandering road that was smooth, fog free and in beautiful country. Yeah, only in Mexico will a taxi show an adventure guy how to cross a river. If I had any pride I’d be embarrassed, but I’m not.

The next hundred or so kilometers were great – but that’s pretty much where the fun stopped. I was given a heads-up that the main road out of Mexico on the Gulf side is tedious. As a result, up to this point I avoided it as much as possible. But to my knowledge, if you’re USA bound, there really isn’t a way to avoid that route the last day or so. The only fun moments were stopping to absorb the moment, grab water or playing charades with a local. That night I stopped in Soto la Marina, a windy dusty dirty scary spot. There, I spent a restless night.

I haven’t seen as many military and police in one place since the October Crisis and the War Measures Act in Quebec. Even the hotel had three or four Federal police cars on the premises, which didn’t seem to stop some youths drinking and partying a few meters from my bike at one in the morning. I saw them because I was peeking through the curtains – Bruce Willis I ain’t.

The next morning brought an early, quick and grateful departure. I promised myself if I found anything that looked remotely interesting, I’d stay at least one more night in Mexico. I couldn’t find a thing so that afternoon I crossed the border. On the up side, crossing from Matamoros to Texas was seamless. In comparison to my experiences crossing Guatemala and El Salvador . . . well, there is no comparison. I still have much to learn about adjusting my expectations to reality.

So, I’m back in Texas. I have a plan that I put a lot of thought into during to during the tedium of my last day leaving Mexico: Stay warm as inexpensively as possible in interesting places. I’ll let you know how that works out . . .

 

Hey, Mom . . .

Bewildered. The day today was bewildering. I woke up not really wanting to leave what I believed to be a safe, comfortable, inexpensive and interesting place. I also woke up thinking I had to leave, I'm old enough to have experienced being on the move and staying in a place one day too long. You don't want to do that twice.

The ride was really fresh, an early start and killer pot-holes aside, mostly decent roads. Much more green than brown, much more gentle and rolling than shark-toothed and rugged. Only had to wait ten minutes or so for construction; that's a first.

My faux pas was at one of the ubiquitous police stops. It was municipal police this time, not the usual Feds or Army or WTF – are you really cops? As usual, they were civil and just doing their job, whatever that is.

I was traveling down a very rural and isolated road and a nice enough fellow told me to pull over. We went through the usual strained pleasantries and he said great, move on drive safe; it's dangerous here, so be careful for the cartels. He wasn't kidding.

I put my helmet back on and then another fellow walked over and told me to shut off the bike again. Then he said open up all your cases.

At this point I know the routine; I've been through it a hundred times. It's always, “Yes Sir, no Sir, three bags full sir.” But, for some reason, I flipped. I took off my helmet and said, “You've got to be fucking kidding!” The ten seconds of silence made time stop. I may have done this a hundred times, but I never did THIS once. In retrospect, the theme music would have been from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. But that's only in retrospect. At the time, it was cold silence.

In my heart, I was ready for the cuffs. On my face, who knows? Then, he motioned his head for me to move on. At first I thought he motioned me to move on over to the side of the road for whatever was going to happen next. The poor prick had to motion about five more times until I understood he was telling me to move on, down the road. Looked like he had a tick, but evidently, I was free to go. A few of the other uniforms were giving me subtle go, go, go hand signs. So, I went.

Yeah. That was a mistake on my part. To say I was lucky is an understatement, to say I was stupid is an understatement. To say I won't do that again is a certainty.

So, the main reason I'm bewildered is because I can't seem to answer this question: Why do I love Mexico so much? It's certainly not for the police checks, the topes, the insane drivers, the relentless jake-brake truck traffic, the beeping taxis, the poverty, the toxic living conditions, the dust, the moldy filth, the blasting bull horns, the murderous drug and criminal elements, the desperation or the even the weather. It's not any of those things. But, I am as sure as I can be, I do love this country.

And, that's why I'm bewildered.

As I write this I'm in a little sea-side peninsula town called Tamiahua. It's about 7:00 pm, just came back from an excellent supper in a water front restaurant two blocks from my hotel. No one else was eating but a daughter and her very aged mother; it reminded me of my sister and how she devoted so much to my mom. It reminded me how thankful I was for my sister's care; it made me miss my mom, watching them.

The Hotel Barrera is nothing to write home about, but it's okay – great staff, we laughed together at least three times already. The sun is starting to drop over the courtyard, the church bells are either calling or releasing the faithful. I can hear some of the shopkeepers closing their shops, shutting their rusty gates. The birds are loud and busy, but there's also a stillness in the air. I hear children playing, it sounds like they know their play is quickly drawing to a close.

It's all so familiar, and different, and there's not enough time to be bewildered. Just grateful.

 

 

Navigating Corners

Well, I didn’t pull out as planned, stayed one more day. I just couldn’t give up until I had touched the Mayan ruins in Conaculta. I caved, I took a bloody taxi. A fast ambiguous lane cell phone texting tope hopping knee on the steering wheel loud Mexican music playing – yipity this is kinda fun – young driver got me there. In one piece. At one point I became quite thankful for his plethora of religious artifacts hanging from the mirror and bobble-heading on the dash. Phew.

Anyway, I still have hands to have time on so you’ll have to excuse (or avoid) my rather circuitous ramblings. Scary enough, I think there’s a theme here, but if you’re the type of person that requires a point, I invite you to make it. Doesn’t really matter though, I’ll insert pictures and I invite you to make them as relevant or as irrelevant to the text as they may or may not be.

I know very little about the Mayan culture, I suspect they know less about me. Coincidentally though, new archeological theories released just this week have tried to explain how Mayan’s turned the corner from hunter-gatherers to an agrarian culture; a major shift in direction for most humans. And, I’m not convinced there’s much evidence that turning that corner has been navigated well, by any culture. Or, still is being navigated all that well, by us.

What got to me today was touching those ancient stones in a setting that nearby has a crumbling four lane highway and a few kilometers away, a nuclear energy plant. Bet the Mayans never saw that coming.

The fact is, I claim no knowledge, authority, wisdom or deep experience of much value to anyone. I don’t say this out of humility, I say it to avoid the responsibility of making a point. Besides, apart from myself and a few others, I have no idea who will even read what I write. I have even less of an idea how what I write will be interpreted – down the road, even by me. I sort of heard the Mayan stones hum the same tune today.

In the present moment though, I do think the landscape of my personal history informs my interpretation of my situations. What surprises me, even more than the situations around the next corner, is how I navigate the corner itself. It apears to me it’s the “how” I navigate that enables or impedes what I see, in both myself and the world.

There are hundreds of people in my little Prince Edward Island home, living right now, that have had a thousand times the on-the-ground adventure I will ever have. That includes almost everyone in a uniform. There are even more than hundreds that are more traveled than I will ever be. Most of those people have brought their travels and their adventures upon themselves, some have had the travel and adventures imposed upon them.

Then again, there are also people who haven’t moved far from where they were born, and it’s likely they will die in the same area. Some of those people have had adventures far more profound than most of us will ever have. It could be said that they have travelled further than most too. I’m sure that some of their stories bring tears to the eyes of angels.
 
Some time ago, I said the day I stop fearing motorcycles is the day I’ll stop using them. They are dangerous contraptions; why would any sane person willingly put their ass on one? I haven’t got a clue. But, I know why I ride. Physically and metaphorically speaking, it’s to ride the corners.

If anyone rides a bike going faster than 15 kph or so, counter steering is necessary. It must occur, it’s not an option. When navigating a corner on a motorcycle, if you don’t counter steer, you don’t turn in the direction you want to go. That’s a bad thing. Put simply, when you turn right, you turn the bars to the left. Turn left? Turn bars right. Actually, you push the right handle away from you if you want to turn right, push left to turn left – just a different way of saying the same thing. I can’t explain the physics of the maneuver, but that’s the way it is. If you don’t believe me, Google it.

I’ve met riders, usually beginners but sometimes even the experienced, who don’t even realize they’re counter steering. In fact, I’ve told people that they’re counter steering and they thought I was nuts until they get back on the bike and realize that to turn a corner they have to counter steer. No choice. To be fair, counter steering is also counter intuitive. However, being conscious of it changes everything.

And, there’s the rub. Even though there’s no choice, being conscious about the choices we’re making makes all the difference – in the world. Especially when going around corners on a motorcycle.

But it does leave me wondering: How did the Mayans, and all the travelled and not so traveled amoung us, turn the corner from a hunter-gatherer people to an agrarian people? Were they (are we) conscious of how that turn was made – how that turn continues to be made? Did some make the turn fully conscious while others did it without knowing how or even why they were doing it? The funny thing is, this all matters to me much more because of the taxi ride, the crumbling four lane highway and the nuclear energy plant in the shadows of the ancient ruins, than the ruins themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, Sunday, Monday . . .

I'm too muddle headed to write a blog posting, so for the record I'm just cut and pasting stuff I already sent to family and friends. For a few of you, sorry for the redundancy, but for the sake of this blog's continuity and to scaffold my own short memory, here goes . . .

Saturday was a relaxing day, I just rode around the country side looking for nothing in particular, and I'm happy to report I found it. After that, I rode back to where I'm staying and plopped under a certain tree, the only spot where wifi intermittently kicks in. It didn't take long to forget the wifi.

The older lady (my age?) who seems to own the place where I'm staying seems to be a nice person, quite sophisticated. I mention this only because it's relevant to what I was about to experience.

She opened the door of her place and urgently called for her man, who promptly dropped what he was doing and ran inside to join her. Within a few moments the sounds of amorous affection began to permeate the air. To be honest, I was impressed. Soon, the level of enthusiasm gained in pitch along with shouts of encouragement; all I thought was, good luck buddy. But evidently he didn't need any luck, they both started sounding like teenagers. Now I was really impressed; what's in the tacos down here? Then the yelling ratcheted up to a crescendo of enthusiasm – over and over again. To be honest, I thought one or both of them were going to be damaged.

Then the door flew open and they came out with huge grins on their faces. In a second I understood. Turns out they were watching soccer. Without a doubt, these Mexicans sure know how to express their enthusiasm for The Beautiful Game.

And yeah, I felt kinda foolish, and for some reason, kinda relieved.

In a random shift in narrative, here's a picture of a cattle, they're lying precariously on a ledge that rolls steeply down the pasture a few hundred meters.

Here's a shot of more cattle, a little hard to see them, but it's the steep angle of the pasture that got to me. Pictures don't provide the proper perspective. Just try to imagine where I was taking the picture.

Anyway, I spent most of a very quiet Sunday hanging around with a bunch of guys fixing a truck. I don't speak Spanish, they didn't speak English. Great time all around. What these guys can do in a back yard with a good set of tools amazed me; especially in four hours. They dropped the drive train, pulled apart the transmission, and spit out the problem. They found a part that cost less than a dollar to fix. It may take a week to get the part, but at least they identified the problem.

I know wrench-heads would have loved the scene. It really was rare mixture of hard work and fun. In as much as possible, they transformed a difficult situation into a family event. Cute little kids running around, moms, dads, uncles and aunts. Oil and grease mixed with smiles and laughter, and locally distilled hootch. After it was all over we even exchanged emails. Crazy.

Early Sunday morning I was out hunting for Mayan temples (still didn't find them) and met some people who just couldn't accept I didn't speak Spanish, it was as if I was from a different planet. I must admit, my brain hurts from charades – Mayan temples being a tad more difficult than miming I'm out of gas. I ended up in the middle of nowhere, which I'm sure is he middle of someone's home. I went up to a few people near a pile of coconuts. Perhaps it was because of the isolation, but I was quite glad when I rightly interpreted the big guy with the machete as he gestured on a coconut. Good guess on my part. I was even more glad I guessed right when he poked his finger in and out of a coconut hole and pretended he was sucking on something. Man, I was elated when he made a hole in the coconut and handed me a straw! We drank the juice, ate the coconut meat and had chuckles all around. And to a large degree, they were right – I am from a different planet.
Monday found me hunting out a place the locals consider spiritual, claims to have healing waters. I found the place but didn't feel it was right to start shooting pictures of people who were attempting to be healed. I'm tempted to give it a try myself; we all need to heal something, right? Here's a few pictures of the area. I've got to be honest, I was a little spooked, it was one of the most isolated places I've been to in Mexico, way out of my comfort zone. Shyness doesn't get in the way of riding to isolated places, however, chutzpa is something I lack. But, like John Candy said, “I went on a long trip to try and find myself but wherever I went, there I was!”
 

 

Packing up and leaving tomorrow, I'm in no rush to leave Mexico . . .

 

 

Just A Few Pictures . . .

Just pictures, no stories . . .

Here's a road I've been riding without luggage; it goes on and oni to the mountains. Sorta feels like freedom.

Here's a couple of pics for John, Bill, Chuck, George and Brian. I'm not a sea guy so you tell me what happened.

 

More of where I'm at . . .

Here's the location, can't find it on Google, but then again, I can't find Google.
Here's a great little Italian restaurant, in the middle of nowhere. Gordie, they'd have to carry us out of this place. Really, not another building around for miles, haven't got a clue why it's even there. I'm loving the food, the service, the cost and the perfect tranquility. If you could find a donkey you could hear it fart . . .

Who would of guessed? From the deck of the restaurant, looked over my shoulder and saw a donkey making an ass of himself . . .

Cheap places to stay . . . under $30 a night.

. .
. . . and not so cheap, this will put you back $50 usd a night; real nice but not for me.

See ya later, still much to explore.

 

Paranoid and Down to Fumes . . .

Today, the repulsive collides with the sublime. I suspect that happens somewhere everyday, but I post this some 36 hours later still muddled from the experience.

The ride seemed to compress forty years of riding into one day. What came to me were moments of awe, terror, boredom and relaxation. Also, transcendent beauty and extreme ugliness. In the early morning my nose unearthed tantalizing desert smells, a mixture of burnt grass incense, sea salt, cacti and a tincture of whatever the vultures fancied. As I twisted far up then down then more up into the mountains, the desert smells were replaced by sweet green tropical scents and, if possible, cloud dew. By evening I came back down to the urban sprawl and everything turned to a sulfury burnt plastic stench.

There were times when the landscape was so overwhelmingly beautiful it seemed as if the old neuro-pathways couldn't cope with the input. There were also moments when the impact of the industrial wasteland lobotomized my sensory impressions.

What a day.

At dawn I walked the streets of Pijijiapan; my intention was to stay and explore the place. After all, how could a place named with such a jumble of dotted vowels and consonants be anything but interesting? However, my impressions of that small city turned out to be less than positive. Walking the streets during sunrise, it was as if Pijijiapan was having as much difficulty digesting me as I was pronouncing it. Perhaps it was the time of day, I must have looked odd and uniquely without purpose. Even the ubiquitous roosters had a job to do. Or, maybe it was something more sinister. Regardless, what lurked in the shadows started to spook me. As it turns out, it wasn't the first time that day I felt confused and stupid.

I made a beeline through the squalor back to the incongruously pleasant hotel and made a quick exit. Maybe it was the lack of a focused departure, but when I packed up and rode out of Pijijiapan I had no firm sense of a destination. Maybe it was something I ate. Maybe I had soul issues, but the only word that can describe the day from that moment on is kaleidoscopic.

From the sand blasted desert to the mountains to the lush tropical green of the damp jungle-like valleys to the toxic industrialized urban sprawl. From beautiful smooth twisty perfect roads to pothole-hell and the nightmares of relentless Federal Police searches. To get burned so badly and healed so well in one day is beyond my understanding – but, it happened anyway.

Okay, let's get this out of the way. Running out of fuel was my fault; it was a stupid miscalculation. Paranoid and down to fumes, I had to go off the pavement into the dust to beg for gas. Maybe it's not a great country song title, but paranoid and down to fumes? That must be at least good enough for a C&W refrain, I mean ya gotta hear the line start high then roll down to the drawn out big bass note when it hits fumes . . .

Anyway, my exposed desperation drove me to locate an isolated ramshackle settlement. You know you've hit near the bottom in Mexico when there's no razor wire, steel gates or smoke charred cinderblock walls to protect the possessions. Didn't care, needed gas.

Me open wallet and SHOUT loud so underSTAND okay lOOk, HERE money – I give money – for gasolineO -(mime using gas pump handle) okay, you have gasolineO? Man, on so many levels, I'm embarrassing. GasolineO? Had I been a bag of broken hammers I would not only have been smarter, I'd of been way more useful.

After what seemed like a fruitless twenty minutes of dusty wind swept silence and inane charades the fuel arrived in an open bucket, sucked from what rusty contraption who knows. I opened my wallet and told them to take what they needed, 100, 200, 500 pasos. Whatever. The fellow with the gas burned hands carefully reached into my wallet, fished around, and removed 70 pesos and then asked his family if anybody had change. I could see that they all felt kind of bad, nobody had change.

Once again, I'm humbled. How's this so? How is it that honesty can trump desperation when so often it can't defeat greed? With smiles all around, I honor and respect their help; we separate differently than we met and I ride off with enough fuel – to get somewhere else.

My goal is to reach Coatzacoalcos, which I believed to be a seaside resort area. Turns out that is another stupid miscalculation. It also turns out that running short of fuel is no small irony. As I head into Coatzacoalcos I'm confronted with kilometer after kilometer and hundreds of hectares of fossil fuel holding tanks and processing facilities. My nose burns, my eyes sting. I'm sure the area can be seen from space; that's certainly from where I'd want to see it. This Mad-Max creosote soaked metropolis rivals the industrial horror show of Midland,Texas (home of the Bush clan). And, if you ain't seen Midland, you ain't seen nothin' – right.

Clearly, there's nothing for me in Coatzacoalcos. But, I'm exhausted and before I crash I have to find a place to not do that. I quickly grab the tenth or twelfth thing that appears that doesn't scare me, badly.

I roll into what I know is a Ho-tel, a no-tell-motel, a pay-by-the-hour 'n get what ya yanks fer kinda place. In other words, a brothel. Don't care, need sleep. Two young ladies appear – God love them – and we negotiate a price. For the room. Only the room. To put a spin on an old line, I'd never want a lady who'd have me as a customer. But wow, this is quite a room. Why a pink, red and blue dimly lit room needs a stiff black pole sticking out of a red bucket and a couch and two chairs facing a huge bed and mirrors everywhere, including mirrors to cut your blow, is beyond me. Really, take my word for it, it's beyond me.

But, I need sleep. So, with the lull of the relentlessly pounding, tope hopping jake-breaking traffic, I toss myself on the crinkly plastic body fluid protected mattress. I'm mildly thankful. As I fade into a type of slumber I sniff and think, hmmmm, not too many beds can be cleaned up with a shot of Windex.

Here's a picture of the room; like magnificent landscapes, pictures can't do it justice.

But oh, what a new day can bring! It started out as a sunrise escape from a room that not so oddly smelled of day old buttocks. After a rocky start along taxi honking congested pot-hole infested roads, I hit the sweet spot. A smooth meandering road through pleasant hills and plains, almost not a Federal cop to be seen. And now I write from stunningly beautiful El Paraiso. But that's a story for another day . . .

 

 

 

El Salvador to the Guat to Mexico . . .

Gone to me is El Salvador; I’m back in the Guat.

Previously, I reacted negatively towards Guatemala. I also acknowledged that my opinion I is limited by limited exposure. That said, I’m becoming reasonably accustomed to squalor, crumbling infrastructure and poverty. But, what I can’t wrap my head around is the absence of expectation. What gives birth to our expectations?
On the Island, I once chased down a car from Ontario because someone tossed out a plastic bottle. High indignation: I had to do something. I hip-checked the car over and issued a lecture. I believe that the car’s inmates were suitably ashamed. Either that, or they didn’t know what this whack-job of a biker would do next.
Flash back to here and I’m left with a lingering question: What explains the never-ending piles of garbage along the sides of the roads in Guatemala and Nicaragua, but not quite so much Mexico, El Salvador or Costa Rica? Education? Laws? A better sense of aesthetics? I wish someone who understands more than I would explain it.

But talk of garbage, yet another border crossing has taught me something, and it may even shed some light on the garbage question. As I was sweating my “socks” off in a long line of people waiting to get their documents triple checked and double stamped at multiple windows held together by duct tape it hit me. Perhaps my angst was amplified more than my fellow victims for a reason: I know what efficiency looks like.

If you have never seen efficiency, how do you know what it looks like? If you don’t know what it looks like, how are you going to design it into your systems and behaviors? If you’ve never seen a ditch clean of tons of garbage, why would you expect a ditch to be clean of garbage? Why wouldn’t you toss garbage into the world if the world has never presented itself to you in any other way?

One of my most profound moments as a teacher occurred when a grade ten student asked me a question. She asked, “Why does something become a problem?”

I was gobsmacked.
She went on to say, “Smoking, impaired driving, even family violence used to be not so much a problem but now for many people around here, those things are a problem. How come?”
Good question then, still a good question. But, it appears that the question is as valid for Prince Edward Island as it is for the third world. How come? What makes our garbage visible?. And, when does what has become visible become a problem?
I guess we’re all beneficiaries and victims of familiarity. If garbage and inept bureaucracy is what we’re familiar with, it takes something quite significant to pop up and make it a problem. If it isn’t a problem, there’s nothing to fix, right?
I know in my life, I often seek out the familiar just to avoid confronting a problem. But what happens if we obsessively take shelter in the familiar, what then?
Oh yeah, I made it back to Mexico. I headed out of Guatamala during a beautiful sunrise. The sun was at my back, which makes it wonderful for me to see what’s ahead of me; not so wonderful for those facing the sun and trying to see me.
The people were coming out of their shelters, heading to who knows where to do who knows what. The smell of the morning fires mingled with food and tropical sents I know nothing about was intoxicating. And, there in front of me I saw a volcano pop. I’ve seen active volcanoes before, but never one that just blew in front of me. I was mesmerized. By the time I pulled over to take a picture it was pretty much gone. But wow, for these moments, I am so grateful.
.
Life,
in animate and inanimate breath
is crazy beautiful.

 

 

 

Last Daze in El Salvador

I’m on a bike trip, it’s time to bike. But it’s going to be hard, really hard, to leave this location. This will likely be the last blog entry for a while, spare time being a challenge to find on the move. But all this moving and staying has got me thinking, rarely a good thing.

The fellow below, high above in the tree, is located. He has a ritual before every climbs. He knows every climb may be his last.

That’s Harvey in the next picture; he’s in his 50’s. Long time world class surfer, Iraq survivor. Different location.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION isn’t that the realtor’s mantra? The message is that using your resources to be in a good spot beside a bad spot doesn’t make much sense. But, between the bike seat and the hammock, I’ve had time to wonder what location actually means, or what it ought to mean.

I have good friends who save their pennies and flee the frozen north to putt around on various Florida golf courses. All evidence suggests they love it. I know others who perennially shed their winter skins on the hot rocks of Central America, Mexico, Spain, anywhere where they could gleefully watch Frosty melt. The theme here appears to be: To not worry and be happy, stay warm, don’t freeze. And, if you can’t do that, at least learn how to whistle.

Google knows all; we tap the screen and the screen tells us the options that are . . . well, on Google. Most of those options suggest a location we’re not in now. I haven’t seen one that says, “Wow, you nailed it buddy, stay put!” Perhaps that can’t be helped, priorities change. While it would have been a hoot, I know during our family growing days never once did I ask a realtor if the location offered opportunities to retreat from corporate culture and the norms of the workforce.

Rarely being one to require a point (it’s hard to believe you’ve read this far) I have to say that the old mantra of location, location, location is probably still relevant, just not so much in its original intent and certainly not as a marketing tool for location agents. When I’m located on my bike throttling through life, I’m located in movement. If I’m in the zone, I’m grateful to be alive. When I get off my bike to find shelter, that’s another type of location. I can be grateful for a decent location there too. And, when the two kinds of locations converge? Hey, that’s the best in and out of head location of all.

Finding those middle locations, for me at least, takes work. It requires selling off my sense of location entitlement. Then I have to use all the proceeds of that sale to renegotiate for a better understanding of the location I’m actually in. But once the deal’s been cut, how do I know if I’ve found the right location?

For me, it’s when I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. It’s the only indicator I recognize and the one I have to look the hardest to find. And, work hardest to keep.

So there – or here – it is. Location (motion) location (place) and the relationship between the two, the magic location. The sweet spot, the OM in home, the point of life. I guess it melts down to this: It’s not so much the location that matters, what matters is making the location matter.

As I write, this Big Bang is what’s happening in Costa Rica. Glad I don’t have to ride through the falling ash.

See ya. Maybe the only way to be in a constant state of finding new locations
is being . . .

Who knows? Not me.

 

 

To Do, or Not To Do.

Another beautiful day here, woke up by thunderous waves. At sunrise there were already a lot of surfers; I’ve counted sixty, but it’s hard to get a number. They won’t stay still.

Today is a this ‘n that day. A bit of preparing for the next phase of the ride. A bit more pure pleasure riding; no point A to B stuff. And, the bike won’t be laden with luggage, which in itself is a pleasure.

One important “do” is working out how to get the insurance documents to cross back into Mexico next week. You don’t need them to get out, but I think you need them to get back in. Of all the Central American jungles to navigate a vehicle through, the paper jungle they make a person machete is the scariest. It’s full of paper snakes and poisonous “plants”.

It would be a tedious enough task gathering the documents in the USA or Canada, but here it’s excessive and needlessly complex. I’ve learned that persistence and patience is the key, qualities I sadly lack. And, I must admit that the issues are often due to my own language limitations and access to technology. On the other hand, what helps turn the key (should it not be under one’s hat) is the willingness of the common people (not the bureaucrats) to help out. It all reconfigures the brain, or at least my brain. No bad thing.

I should say that the border madness would be much more tolerable, I think, if a person was going to stay here for a lifetime. Or at least a few months. For me, it’s the thought of doing it repeatedly in short spurts that amplifies the angst. I also must admit that I’m anaphylactic to forms, so please take all of my whining with a grain of salt.

I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a seventies guy, they were my formative-stunted years. When CCR put out Cosmo’s Factory (Run Through the Jungle), for some reason I often recall to mind the cover. You’ll notice there’s a sign. Part of the sign is purposefully “chipped off” so, where it used to say Beware of Dog, it now reads: Beware of Do. I’ve kinda worn that for the last 45 years. I’ve never interpreted it as suggesting not to do, but just to be aware – and beware – of it.

Holy cow! I just saw one of those Hawaii 5-O waves come in; it was amazing. People are laughing their heads off out there. Crazy. It must take a lot of guts and skill to play on one of those babies. I took this picture of a biggie this morning, but there’s no perspective. Anyway, it’s half the size of the 5-O I just saw.

 
Bellow is Roberto, the owner of the hostel that’s been my home base. Due to the huge and dangerous boulders just under the surface, he is one of the few to surf directly in front of the hostel. Now that’s guts . . . and skill. Amazing.

Speaking of guts, one thing I’ve noticed down here is the relative lack of obesity. Quite the opposite, most people I see are either in good shape or ripped. Then again, I’m in a “Beautiful People” surfing zone, so maybe that’s to be expected. Hey, this morning I noticed I’ve even lost a bit of girth myself, but no fears, you won’t be seeing me in a thong bathingsuit just yet.

For breakfast (desayuno) I walk a few meters to a little hut where they serve fantastic food, most of it caught a few meters from the hut. Here’s the hut (Sharky’s) and lunch arriving:

 

Ah well, the opportunities for doing this blog will dissipate once the wheels under my ass start spinning. But before I get vertical, a little horizontal wouldn’t hurt, For now, it’s enough of this do . . .