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Well, the curtain has fallen, the ride’s over; I’m home.

Time for a few final reflections . . .


It’s been a trip driven by fear, worry and wonder. A ride like this isn’t always fun; if you just want fun, go to Disneyland. Don’t go to parts unknown on a motorcycle. These trips are full of expected and unexpected challenges, and also full of unexpected joys. Everyday is a learning experience, as everyday in all our lives ought to be. Right?

If I live long enough to start forgetting this trip, the one thing I want this blog to help me remember are the people. There’s no doubt that the best part was meeting people and keeping in touch with people who were sincerely interested in my progress (or lack thereof). Seeing places new to me and revisiting familiar riding venues was a gift, but it’s the people that count. From the family I spent some time with in a Guatemalan street stand to the isolated people who helped a stupid lost Gringo find gas, almost to a person, be they rich or poverty stricken, the people were helpful, trustworthy and friendly.

A few have asked if I’d do this again. My quick answer is yes, in a second I’d do it again. My more reasoned response is, no. I’d never do the same ride again because I’ve learned enough to redo things that worked and not to redo things that didn’t work. Put the “no” and “yes” together, and I’m left with a definite maybe.

While riding solo through third-world situations was never part of the plan, it did amplify the learning. However, I’d never put myself in that situation again. I’m not wealthy enough, I’m “of an age” and I’m certainly not skilled enough to be exposed to that type of financial cost and physical danger – on purpose.

That said, it’s even more foolish to ride with other people without explicit contingency plans that accommodate shifting realities. During this experience, I talked with much more experienced adventure riders than myself and learned from their stories. Clearly, committing to an extended ride with other people is a complex business; to do it successfully takes a lot more work than twisting a throttle. But, done correctly, riding with other people is the way to go . . . by far. In fact, other people have already made contact with me who want to do similar rides. Let’s talk!

During the last months I’ve learned things. Mostly, the ride has put into bold relief the difference between first-world problems and third-world problems. For example, finding a bank to withdraw money for a hotel in Central America is a first-world problem. Finding a bank to borrow or beg for enough money to buy food for your family? That’s a third-world problem. Using a motorcycle for adventure is a first-world challenge; using a motorcycle for daily survival is a third-world challenge.

Sure, we have third-world problems in North America and even here, in beautiful Prince Edward Island. There are also first-world problems in Mexico and Central America, but anyone reading this has the intelligence to theoretically know the difference. However, being exposed first hand to that difference can change how the world is experienced. To be frank, I was much more naïve than I thought, and I’m still not sure how to wrap my head around a few new memories.

It’s possible to see vulnerability as an opportunity to exploit for personal gain; it’s also possible to see it as problem that must be remedied in favor of the vulnerable. It’s no easy task for me to acknowledge where I fit in this divide or on the capitalist spectrum. In this, I remain morally muddled and consciously confused. Perhaps my muddle is also a first-world problem? I don’t know, but I will look to other people, wiser than myself, to help me navigate through this confusion. One thing I do know, to do something that helps will be much more of a challenge than riding a motorcycle through third-world countries.

To end, I want to say “thanks” to the people who commented on this blog, the many more who sent me words of encouragement via email, Skype and generally supported and forgave my efforts to try something a tad different from the norm. I failed to reach Panama, but I did succeed in reaching out and finding new perspectives. Above all, I’m grateful for the new ways of understanding that this ride has provided.

To Glenda, who could have stopped this from happening but did the opposite – forever, thank-you.

 

 

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From freeze, to furnace, to freeze again . . .

For a few reasons I haven’t been posting on the blog. Mostly, I’ve been doing a lot of riding, not A to B traveling, just exploring and extensively riding The Great Smoky Mountains. For fun, to practice skills, and to soak up what this miracle of a place has to offer. There’s no way to unpack all the local places I’ve visited and the people I’ve met During my two weeks here, but I’ll run through a few.


Talk of miracles, I was heading out on a mountain run and decided to breakfast in a little cafe in Tellico Plains. There, I met Rick Stevens, a world class adventure rider who lives at the very tail of The Tail of the Dragon. He’s been riding here since before the Deals Gap place even existed. Rick and his wife Roxanne (both riders) have a nice house on over fifty acres of mountain half way up a steep incline. Turned out he also has a little cottage he calls Dragon’s End further up a steep but cemented path. Out of the blue, he offered me the cottage and that’s where I stayed for the duration of my stay in Tennessee. What a gift!

The cottage is on top of Rick’s fifty acre mountain estate, it over looks a beautiful river that starts at Rick’s doorstep and eventually flows into other rivers and ends up in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s stunning. I’ll never be able to thank Rick and he wife Roxanne enough for letting me stay in their cottage.


Another fellow I met in Tellico Plains is called Rocket Rex; born Greg Schwark, but known to many bikers in the USA as Rocket Rex. I met him on day and he held me spellbound for two hours. He’s a master mechanic and motorcycle historian. I’ve never met anyone that knows more about the history of modern motorcycles. Anyway, turns out Rick and Rocket are friends, so after I moved into the cottage we went to his shop to see his huge new warehouse full of pristine bikes. He even owns John Wayne’s pickup truck. Crazy. I also rode withhim and Rick all day on Sunday . . . but that’s another story!

This is Rocket holding court; he is relentless in sharing motorcycle stories!


This is Rocket unloading one of Rick’s bikes to work on. In the background is his Corvette, a rare model with an engine built by Lotus. Every bike in these pictures are Rocket’s – each one a classic in its own right.

I did make it to Two Wheels of Suches, but only to grease my nostalgia. It was closed during the week, but a fellow named Skip let me in. I could feel his love for the place, his absolute dedication to breathing life into what used to be known as Two Wheels Only. When I return, it won’t be for the sticks and mortar, it will be because of people like him.

I must add. I was sitting there alone on the porch soaking in memories when a fellow biker pulled in. He said he’d been riding there and in the area for over twenty years. I mentioned to him that after a couple of months in Mexico and Central America, I was more apprehensive about the Georgia police hitting me up for bogus speeding tickets than I had ever been in those third world countries.

In his deep southern accent he told me the funniest “gettin’ a ticket for speeding” story I’ve ever heard. It went on for about twenty minutes and he had me laughing so hard I peed my pants. I actually hurt myself it was so funny, I almost begged him to stop talking, but he wouldn’t; near killed me he was so funny.

And, that’s why it’s so important to keep places like Two Wheels open. Even when the place is closed during the week, it’s possible to meet someone on the porch that opens doors to something bigger than ourselves.

Here’s a few more pictures of my two weeks in The Smoky Mts. Great times . . .

So that’s it folks! I plan to freeze my butt off and try to get back to PEI this week, I’ll post one more to wrap this off. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Cautionary Tail, of The Dragon

Like many bikers from this planet, the initial draw to the Smokey Mountains is to ride The Tail of the Dragon. That eleven mile stretch of road is unique, fascinating and the characters it attracts? Well, it’s worthy of a good documentary. However, after a few times around the Deals Gap campfire telling biker lies and comparing road stories, it soon becomes as clear as making a corner that the area surrounding The Dragon has much more to offer than one road.

Don’t get me wrong, The Dragon is a road worthy of riding. The first dozen times I rode it I was completely out of my depth. I went too fast, I went too slow, I had no sense of line, rhythm or even what I wanted out of the road. Sort of like my life.

In truth, I was driven by fear that the road wanted me more than I wanted it: on the pavement, in the ditch, or over the side of the mountain. Now that I’ve ridden the road more than a hundred times I have learned of its gifts and demands; its costs and benefits. And its dangers, many of which don’t come from the pavement.

If anyone is foolish enough to believe the The Tail of the Dragon is easy to ride well, they really shouldn’t be riding The Tail of the Dragon. Or a motorcycle.

Sure, any idiot can ride it a few times and not crash – hell, I did. But to ride it well? Not so easy. I can honestly say I’m a half-decent rider, I can touch the foot pegs down, hit the apex, snick over and exit under power. But, of the hundred plus times I’ve ridden that demonic road, I’ve probably ridden it well three, four times. Maybe once. And, when I say well, I don’t mean fast or slow or even safely, I mean becoming the the road like it’s a part of me. At least a part of me I like.

Which is not to say there were times that pieces of the bikes I’ve ridden on that road shouldn’t have ended up on The Tree of Shame. While it’s beyond this post to unpack the inglorious stories that lead to the dubious honor of being hung on that tree, I’m just glad I haven’t ended up there. Yet.

But, as a motorcycle destination, there are few if any places to compare. Perhaps not so much for The Dragon itself, but for the roads that surround it.

It isn’t hard to spend weeks, even years exploring the roads in the area. Be good to yourself; if you have any bike-blood flowing in your veins, don’t wait until it’s too late to ride The Smokey Mts, The Dragon, The Devil’s Triangle, Route 28, The Cherohala Skyway The Shenandoha Skyway, The Blue Ridge Parkway, or any of the hundreds of roads, trails and gravel paths that lead to places every biker should explore . . . at least once.

Today, I ride The Dragon. Again. I’m frightened. Can’t wait . . .

 

 

 

 

Back Into The Mystic …

I'm back in familiar territory, The Blue Ridge Mountains. Here's how I got here. Hey, it's easy!

I've been coming here in the Spring, with friends and by myself, almost every year for the past dozen years, for more than a dozen reasons. The main reason is to ride the roads, they're spectacular. The scenery is stunningly beautiful, the air is clear, crisp and clean, and if done correctly it's possible to melt into the lifestyle. If I could break living into three four month locations a year, the Smoky Mts. would be the location where I'd spend the months we call Spring. And here I am now, filled with gratitude.
This is the first time I've approached the area from the south; usually I ride from cold to cool to warm. This time it's been from hot, to warm to cool. In any case, it's green. Or at least greening; the leaves are just appearing, the grass smells cut, and the flowers are opening.
Another thing that attracts me to the area, besides the brilliance of some of the people I've met, is its history. One historical incident that's worthy of attention is the expulsion of The Cherokee Nation. While the story of humankind is littered with stories of genocide, I know of no other that's more poignant and relevant to our present situation. Our, being all of us in the midst of so much legislative angst.
I can't think of another situation where the victims, in this case the Cherokee, did their utmost to assimilate themselves into the dominant culture. What explains a nation of people trying to fit in being so throughly and immorally and illegally rejected? If we don't try to understand this, how can we understand anything?

Being interested but ignorant about the history of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Creek and Cherokee people, especially the Cherokee, I once naively rode part of what's known as The Trail of Tears. I was by myself; or, so I thought. In a very remote part of that trail, I became so lost even the flora seemed carnivorous.

Then, a strange thing happened. I don't want to unpack that experience here, but should we ever meet in silence, and should you still be interested, I made an agreement with God to share that experience. The short story? God was willing and the Creek didn't rise, so I stumbled my way out of the woods.

And, here I am . . . it ain't pretty, but at the moment, it's all I need.

 

Memories Beside The Road

As New Orleans became a memory Mississippi became a surprise. Since I was following the coastal roads I ended up in Gulfport. I was surprised at the multitude of million dollar summer homes, the expansive beaches and the efforts people are putting into preparing for the next Katrina. Aside from the Katrina part, it’s just not what I expected to see in Mississippi.

 

After running the coast, I decided to work my way up north. For the rest of this trip, I have a few rules. First, no toll roads or interstates; on a motorcycle they’re the source of brain-death. Since I was riding close to the famous Route 11, I figured that I’d follow that road and take even less traveled roads when they looked interesting. Really, it’s hard to go wrong riding the back roads of the southern USA. From the endless narrow causeways that give ride to the bulbous gnarly rooted trees of the swamps to the small towns where people know everybody’s name. Well, not mine.

An example of one of the many finds along route 11 is the 1884 Cafe in Kewanee, you can read about it here: The Simons-Wright Company. I pulled in for breakfast but was treated to a taste of southern hospitality and history; anyone could spend hours sifting through the artifacts. They once sold caskets and shoes upstairs, their motto was, “We’ve got ya coming and going.”

This lady owned and worked the store until she was 93, it wasn’t hard to feel her presence. Now, the next generations are working hard to keep it all alive.

As for me, it’s up and across the beautiful backroads of Alabama, next stop is Tennessee . . . hope to stay there for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOLA LA Land

I had a few long days of Texas behind me, so riding from Lafayette to New Orleans was easy by design. I headed toward the most interesting places I could find which meant going into Bayou country and following river roads. Suffice it to say the area has a certain je ne sais quoi. The air is different here, swampy of course, but also salty, earthy and thick. It was certainly welcome after the thin dry and brittle Texas winds.

Meandering along the Bayou I stumbled upon an alligator farm. Didn’t know alligator farms existed so I pulled over up and spent an hour or so talking to the people who run the place. One thing I can say is that they know a heck of a lot about alligators. Since I knew nothing before I dropped in, I left with a hour or so worth of knowledge. Compared to the owners two generations and personal forty plus years of experience, the best I can say is that I now have a glimpse of what I don’t know. About alligators. Strange, scary and wonderful beasts they are.

 

One thing that stuck with me is that they are born asexual. What eventually determines gender are the environmental conditions during the first part of their life, temperature being a primary determinant. In fact, when raised from an incubator, the farmer can induce the gender by controlling the temperature of the incubator. In this I’m not sure what is more strange, the alligators or the humans.

I have to admit that I had certain apprehensions about Louisiana, especially New Orleans. My prejudice of that city resides in the opinion that it may have collapsed under the weight of its own marketing; an over dependency on tourism can do that sometimes.

However, after I unpacked my gear, I hopped on a trolley. Then, like every other camera carrying kook, I headed directly for the French Quarter; laissez les bons temps rouler. Sure, it’s a bit Disney, but so what?

 

 

One thing that is great about NOLA, aside from the fact that it’s fun calling it NOLA, is the public transportation system. For a maximum of three dollars a day a person can get to almost any part of the city. So, it’s Big and Easy to get out of the French Quarter to really feast on what the larger city has to offer. Well, given the time I was there, I had more like a nibble, but I hope to be back.

Nice comfortable shoes . . .

But for now, aside from the fact that Louisiana will be in my rear view mirror, I have no idea where or what’s next. All I know is that it’s time to rock and road . . . yikes, that was bad. Sorry.

 

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?,

 

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.