You're here for a good time, not for a long time.

You're here for a good time, not a long time.

May 30, 2011

Next Stop: Belize

Goodbyes are hard.  After just four days in Tulum I was really enjoying the camaraderie in my band of fellow wanderers.  The Weary Traveler has a lot of turnover, but there was a core group staying all weekend and we made the most of it.  This morning, we all exchanged facebook info, shook hands for the last time, and parted ways.  Some of them I’ll see again further down on the circuit, but most are just memories now… good ones.

Saturday Alex and I never really woke up.  We got out of bed very late that set the tone for the day.  Eventually mid-afternoon we did get the gumption to ride our bikes across the street for an oil change.  We bought a five liter bottle of oil from a local shop and the owner let us use his backyard as a garage.  He supplied the rags, oil basin, and he even took care of all the garbage including the black sludge that poured out of our bikes.

After that we managed to round up a couple of Germans named Phillip and Chris and hit the beach with them around 5:00pm.  Two hours of rolling around in the surf and I was spent.  We all went back to the hostel and the common area was just starting to heat up.

Just about the entire hostel ended up a couple blocks down at a bar called 317 that had flyers posted all over town for its Brazilian Bikini Party.  The fliers were an absolute lie, but they were effective.  The place was filled and not a single girl was strutting around in a bikini.  Oh well, at least that way I could focus on the more important things: beer and pool.  I played a few games with some Germans, Australians, and English on a very slanted table; all the balls always ended up in one corner.  Imagine all the different pool rules that come out in an American bar… well it gets a lot more complicated on an international level. 

At the party I made plans with a German named Dominik to go to a local cenote for more snorkeling on Sunday (so much for hitting the road).  A cenote is a large underground cavern that opens up after its roof collapses.  The result is a dark lagoon full of stalactites, stalagmites, and plenty of critters.  We showed up at cenote Dos Ojos with a group of five (Alex and two other Germans had the same idea).  Together we talked the price down from $40 to $30 for a two hour guided swim through the caverns with all the equipment.

Our tour guide wasn’t that into it, but our enthusiasm made up for it.  We had fins, masks, snorkels, and flashlights.  That was enough to explore every little crevice we wanted.  There were some points when we had to swim under a wall to reach another room… one of them was full of bats!  There were some fish hanging out in the cenote, but after the turtles and the reef, the wildlife was pretty underwhelming. 

Aside from the tour, not much else happened.  I ended up at the beach again with Phillip and a new English roommate named Sam.  I decided to walk the beach toward the legendary Tulum ruins and got a pretty good view.  Off in the distance I could see a huge rock structure jutting out towards the beach.  It would have been a great spot to make a human sacrifice back in the day.  I could have paid $5 to enter the grounds, but it was 100F degrees out and I didn’t have my camera.  Plus, we will be touring Tikal and hopefully El Mirador in the next couple weeks.

Tikal is by far the most popular Mayan ruins, but I’m more excited for El Mirador.  El Mirador is home to the largest Mayan pyramid and it is completely untouched.  The reason is that everyone has to hike in thirty miles with guides and mules to see the place.  Once there, you can climb to the top, look out over the jungle, and see all the other surround ruins poking out covered in vines.  From what I hear, it’s about as Indy as it gets.  I’m getting ahead of myself though, Guatemala is a ways away. 

Today Al and I left Tulum and went back to Chetumal.  We wanted to cross into Belize today, but we never researched the border crossing and the Tulum hangover had us very unmotivated.  We are back in the same hostel as last Wednesday.  Tomorrow we have a route planned for Belize City.  That’s it in a very tired nutshell.

May 29, 2011

Roped A Couple of Sea Turtles

One aspect that Pirates of the Caribbean didn’t convey is how absolutely paradisiacal the place is.  Tulum has been the perfect rest stop over the past two days and it’s going to be a hard place to leave.  It turns out that 100F degrees isn’t that bad if its passed laying in hammocks, snorkeling in reefs, and socializing with the world’s most exciting people.

Alex and I are staying in a hostel called The Weary Traveler on Eddy and Lizzie’s advice.  Rather than a hostel, this place is more like a dormitory.  We walk through the front entry and into a long courtyard.  On the right are a bar and an open-air kitchen.  On the left are two floors of rooms full of bunks.  In the middle are a massive community table and a series of hammocks beyond that.  Free breakfast, AC, and a party every night for $140 pesos. 

We arrived after a three hour ride Thursday afternoon and settled into our room.  After five days alone on the road together, Alex and I quickly parted ways and went off to do our own thing and meet our own people.  Watching Alex walk up to a brand new group of people who haven’t heard any of his stories is like watching Al Pacino bury his face in white powder at the end of Scarface.  He gets all wide eyed, he tenses up, and then he just goes to town on the innocent audience.  Al got all strung out on gab until 4:00am Thursday night before he finally crashed hard.  He woke up tired and quiet.  Classic.

Tulum is amazing; a strip of authentic Mexican shops amidst a blossoming forest of palms along a white sandy beach.  There are plenty of tourists wandering around but they seem to be of the more adventurous breed (otherwise they would be hung over up in Cancun).  Two hours south of Cancun and one hour south of Playa del Carmen, this little city is going to explode in the next decade.  There are countless mega-resorts, infinite beaches, and even a kite school (not enough wind for windsurfing).  And according to all the other travelers, Tulum is the greatest place in the Yucatan.

Friday was one of the best days I’ve had in the last two months… the perfect mix of adventure and vacation.  Alex and I shared a room two Seattleites named Zac and Amber.  The two are down here for a three week vacation through the Yucatan, Belize, and Guatemala.  We started chatting about home and everybody’s travels and soon enough we had an entire day planned together. 

The four of us plus a French named Alin and a German named Dominic all strolled over to the local dive shop and rented snorkels, masks, and fins for the entire day for just $5.  Then we hopped in a ‘colectivo’ (a big Toyota public transportation van) and headed off to a beach called Akumal.  The colectivo dropped us off on the side of the highway and it was a five minute walk to the beach.  Akumal is more of a resort that’s open to the public.  It is a huge bay filled with fishing boats, divers, swimmers, and a coral reef.  I immediately threw on the fins and hit the crystal clear bathtub water. 

With plenty of other swimmers and explorers in the water already, I swam out pretty far trying to find the reef and take some pictures with my waterproof camera.  I was splashing around for half an hour getting frustrated unable to find the reef when my luck changed.  Right below me on the seafloor was a turtle grazing on seaweed.  I watched for a few minutes as he ate, then surfaced, then went back down for more food.  Eventually, I decided to see how close I could get.  To much delight, he let me swim right up beside him and even touch his shell (don’t tell Fish and Game).  I wandered around the ocean floor with the three foot shelled sea turtle for twenty more minutes mimicking his activities and taking pictures.   Eventually I lost him and went back to the beach. 

I spent the next few hours sunbathing and had a great lunch across the highway with Zac and Amber.  It was really a relief to hang out with some true neighbors.  When traveling, I usually just put on a happy face and act very agreeable to everyone else on the road whether I like them or not.  What a pleasure to spend some time with people who actually think the same way and share the same mannerisms.  Zac and Amber both work at a Seattle restaurant called Dragonfish.  I laughed because that’s where Drew, Derrick, Nicole, and I always go after the Seattle bar scene for the late-night sushi happy hour.  I’m sure we’ve all crossed paths before Tulum.

After lunch I followed Zac and Amber out to the reef.  On the way, we ran into five more turtles all in the same area.  We hovered around them until they all scattered and then we kept going.  Turtles don’t look like they’re moving fast as they gracefully glide through the water, but they’re hard to keep up with when they don’t want to be bothered.

Five minutes later we were out above the reef examining the exotic habitat.  The reef was just like any nature program portrays it: teeming with colorful fish, full of different coral formations, and very vibrant.  My favorite discovery was a squid pushing along right above the reef.  His eyes were massive and looking right at me.  Again, for an animal with no spinal cord, he made me think twice about who had control of the situation out there in the reef. 

Back in Tulum I went out with Zac, Amber, and another lady for fish dinner.  For about $8 each, we ate the most bountiful catch the Caribbean could deliver.   We ordered rich guacamole, a pound of ceviche, two fried fish, and a beer each; no one could clean their plates.  The food was all incredible.  It tasted like the ocean, but it wasn’t fishy either.  It was the perfect ending to a day of snorkeling in the ocean.

We returned to the Weary Traveler and saw a new bike in the lot with Colorado plates.  Intrigued, Alex and I eventually found the other biker and started cooking plans.  The Coloradan is named Ty and he’s currently riding two-up with his girlfriend Jill on the same route we are.  We spent the night sharing drinks and telling stories but the real news is that we have a new team put together for the next few weeks. 

Ty and Jill headed to Belize on Saturday while Alex and I are staying here in Tulum one more night.  Tomorrow we will head down behind them to catch up.  The plan is to meet up before Guatemala and head in together.  Tulum has delivered.  I have new friends at home and new friends on the road.  Tomorrow we drop into Belize and the adventure starts all over again.

May 25, 2011

The Yucatan

Five days ago we tore out of Cuernavaca and haven’t stopped to catch our breath since.  Aside from a one-day layover in Oaxaca, Alex and I have been burning fuel on a mad tear.  According to my odometer, that’s somewhere around 1,300 miles in six days; all of it in 85F+ degree weather.  I’ve been wearing the same outfit since we left and the smell is getting unbearable.  I would change, but I only have three shirts and I want something to get into when we finally do stop.   

It’s been a good ride.  Great roads, breathtaking views, and constantly evolving scenery.  Tuesday took us back into the jungle, but in a much more rural setting than we had yet seen.  We plotted a route on Google that meandered towards the Caribbean and went for it.  The first 120 miles took over four hours as we crossed the same mountain range yet again making our way north.  We rode through town after town full of subsistence farming across some of the strangest fields I have seen.  Old man steering a donkey pulling a wooden plow with a wooden yoke up a hill?  Yes.  And we are riding through on $5,500 dirt bikes with all the conveniences money can afford… and bitching about the heat. 

The actual rode was again amazing.  The trees often grew overhead and sometimes within several feet of my helmet as I whizzed underneath them.  With no shoulders and no shoulder maintenance, the jungle grows up very high as soon as the tarmac ends at the white line.  Although it doesn’t seem very safe, it absolutely immerses the rider in the jungle.  The long overhanging cliff bands had the same effect.  At one point we rode through a canyon the width of two lanes with vertical rock faces towering up on both sides; there were vines hanging in all directions.  If it were a movie, I would have grabbed a vine from the bike and swung up into the next adventure (but I don’t think my traveler’s insurance would cover Tarzan acrobatics injuries). 

Near the end were some of the worst road conditions I’ve seen in Mexico.  While following a river gully at times there would be an entire lane missing.  Thankfully, the Mexican government had actually put up some warning signs before we came flying around the corner.  There were also sporadic sections of dirt and gravel throughout the last 25 miles with deep potholes thrown into the mix.  We ride these bikes because they were built for such conditions, but it’s still nerve-wracking to realize at 60mph that the section twenty feet away is suddenly changing to dirt and rock.  Just slam on the brakes, downshift as many times as possible, and then begin the balancing act. 

Eventually we came out of the mountains and we haven’t seen them since.  Outside of a small town called Teapa we finally hit a main highway and started making better time.  Tuesday night Al and I ended up in Ciudad del Carmen.  The city is on the end of a long spit on the Caribbean coast and its main industry seems to be oil.  We talked to an oiler during dinner who works on the rigs; he likes his two weeks on, two weeks off gig and he’s paid very well for Mexican wages. 

Riding in the sun all day exhausts me.  Al and I woke up at 6:00am Tuesday morning and went to bed at 10:00pm.  We passed the evening resting, facebooking, and drinking over a gallon of water each.

6:00am this morning I still wasn’t ready to get out of bed.  We waited until 7:00am and then geared up.  It was 80F degrees when we left at 7:45am from Ciudad del Carmen.  Twenty minutes into the ride my turns weren’t feeling very dialed.  I looked at my rear tire and of course it was nearly flat.  The old Shinko probably had a few hundred miles left on it, but there on the side of the road seemed like as good of a place as any to finally put on my brand new Pirelli.  With just one calculated and deliberately slow try, I got the new tire on with a brand new tube inside.  Al helped me out at the end to make sure we didn’t start the pinching madness.  It only took forty minutes!

After that we were moving again towards Chetumal.  We have been debating the Yucatan for weeks now and we finally decided to compromise on it after Eddy and Lizzie told us it was a must-see.  Instead of going up and around through Merida, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen, we are cutting straight across the base to the eastern coast and then heading north.  Today we did the bee line to the east coast and we’re staying in a hostel here in Chetumal.  Tomorrow we are going three hours north to a traveler’s paradise called Tulum.  Tulum is a couple hours south of Cancun and apparently a much better alternative than the spring break party up north (not that I have a problem with spring break).  The word is sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and plenty of tiki bars in Tulum.

Today the ride across quickly jumped into the triple digit temperatures.  Forget about wetting the undershirts, Alex and I used the gas station water hoses to completely douse ourselves inside and out today.  The ride was pretty tame, although at one point we were riding through flurry of butterflies.  The butterflies were everywhere in every direction; and at 60mph, that includes splattered across my sunglasses several times.  It’s quite traumatic cruising along only to have my depth perception stolen away by a huge winged insect sprawled across my lens.   I wiped him away, but his guts were glazed over my glasses and were spewing onto my face.  I pulled over, cleaned everything up, and put my visor down after that. 

Tomorrow in Tulum we will take a well-deserved break.  Aside from relaxing on the beach, we need to change oil and buy some gas cans for Belize (we don’t plan to pay $10/gallon).  After that, we will backtrack back through Chetumal and into Belize.  Eddy and Lizzie are not far south and it would be great to shack up with them again. 

It’s good to be here in Pirateland.  So far the Caribbean is everything the movies portrayed.  Lots of sandals, palm thatch palapa huts, and pristine beaches.  We’ve only been buzzing through so tomorrow I intend to add ice cold beer to the scenario and really let it set in.

It’s windy here on the beach… I can only hope there is some windsurfing coming my way.  I know it’s somewhere out there; my former boss JaK from Hood River, OR is currently looking into wind business opportunities in Belize.  Alex wants to go work the mines in Australia when this is all over.  I just keep thinking about the Columbia River Gorge.  

May 23, 2011

Fotos II!

Oaxaca is long history and I don’t miss it at all.  It would have been great to stay longer, but I am in the travel mood now; thirsty for what’s around the next bend.

Sunday morning Alex and I left at 9:30am after the free breakfast and the usual goodbyes.  We wanted to end up somewhere a few hundred miles southeast from Oaxaca; a point where we can decide between the Yucatan Peninsula loop or a straight shot into Guatemala.  Still in the mountains, there were only two viable roads to get out, one leading northeast and one leading south towards the Pacific. 

Well anything leading north sounds like trouble on a trip to the bottom of the world… so we went for the ocean.  One hundred and eighty more miles of mountain weaving was just what I needed.  As we left Oaxaca, the road climbed back into the hills and started winding through the valleys toward Tehuantepec.  This ride was much like the previous and again we were leaning hard into each and every turn to make it there in only four hours.    The scenery was fantastic as well, although a lot more arid on this portion.  Less jungle and more cactus, but still beautiful. 

On the final elevation drop towards the sea we followed a river valley for about forty miles as it meandered to a delta.  We had aspirations to ride far past Tehantepec, but as soon as we hit sea level the thermometer spiked up to 100F degrees.  Even at 80mph, it’s still like peering into an open oven even with the facemask up and all vents open… absolutely unbearable.  We got into town around 1:00pm dying from the heat and called it a day. 

After finding a cheap hotel on the outskirts of town, we got some food and then spent the rest of the day in the air conditioned room.  We went to bed early that night.  The heat had worn us out and we realized we need to be up when the sun rises to cover ground in this climate.

Monday morning the alarm was set for 6:00am, but neither of us had the energy to actually get out of bed.  We eventually got on the road around 8:00am moving directly east towards Tuxtla Gutierrez and then north towards Villahermosa.  By the time we made it to Tuxtla, Alex’s guts were awry and he needed to get off the bike.  It was breaking 100F degrees again by then so I didn’t mind.  We’re now hiding in the shade of our hotel as the afternoon heat keeps ramping up.

Today’s ride finally threw us back onto the open, straight roads so we made very good time.  The path kept us mostly at the base of the mountains although we did run through some extremely lush green vegetation.  Jungles are new to me so I of course was thrilled.  I saw some critter that looked like a hairy anteater rifling through garbage on the side of the road and also a lot of geckos sunbathing on the blacktop.  Much better animal life than the all the dead livestock on the shoulder in Northern Mexico.  After that section, though, we started passing more farmland on the way into Tuxtla and I think it will be more of the same for a while.  Tuxtla for one night, and then we start north tomorrow very early.

More importantly, here are some photos of the last month dating back to Mazatlan.  Enjoy!

The Mazatlan motorcycle parade.  Four miles of this in 90F degree heat.  Alex and I were the only ones wearing helmets.
Jim riding his big BMW R1200 GSA.  The following night was the tequila attack.
On top of the Devil's Backbone.  The third bike by the taco stand is Sergio's.  This is when he started riding with us.  Also when the three semis raced for first place around a blind curve.
Cintia and her darling family of professors.  I really enjoyed drinking mezcal and watching the NBA playoffs with her dad.
The insane water slide loop at El Rollo.  I wasn't allowed to go down because I had zippers on my trunks.  More like because I'm white.
The native dance at Xochicalco.  Look at the lumbering giant.
Hanging out with my GU Spanish professor Luis outside of Uninter.  Not much different from four years ago, except that  I have  motorcycle this time.
Gonzaga party in La Plazuela for happy hour.  I hope we didn't corrupt them too much.
Looking down at Tepoztlan from the pyramid.  Far in the distance you could see Cuernavaca with a better camera.
The river bed leading us out of the mountains down to the Pacific Ocean... and into the triple digit temperatures.
This bird reminded me of Kermit.  He belonged to the hotel, but he hung out in the tree all day.
This picture doesn't do the mountains justice around here, but it's all I got.  They all have that rock face look with vegetation growing everywhere possible on them.
A classic road warrior shot of me taken by Alex from a handlebar camera mount.  Just one of the hundreds of turns we've made in the last few days.
A little lagoon that some lucky Mexicans get to call home high up in the mountains.
Ta ta for now!

May 21, 2011


It’s beginning to feel a lot like adventure.  Just when Mexico was starting to feel mundane, a three hundred mile ride through a volcanic mountain range dropped us into a whole new tropical ambiance.  We arrived in Oaxaca (pronounced Wa-ha-ka) yesterday evening amidst a thundering downpour. Thankfully Oscar was right on the money; the ride was incredible and the town is absolutely a must-see on our way south. 

Al and I left Cuernavaca Friday morning around 8:00am with proper directions and a list of all the little towns we’d pass through on the way to Oaxaca.  The earlier we leave, the less traffic, the less heat, and the more time for problems we have.  The roads started off cool and clear as we headed back through Tepotzlan on the way south.  After two weeks of Cuernavaca, it was amazing to finally have the wind in my face again hurling towards a new destination.  Oscar’s advice had me very excited to hit the upcoming mountain roads; according to him, they were even better then Lagunas de Zempuala. 

Just forty miles outside of Tepotzlan Alex came to a grinding halt with a flat rear tire.  I wasn’t surprised, but I was very concerned.  This tire took ten tries over two days last time and the installation hadn’t even lasted twenty-four hours.  Now we have to go through it again in the sun at the onset of a huge run? 

It wasn’t a perfect repair, but it’s about as close as we’ve gotten over the last 5,000 miles.  Due to the heat of the day and the friction of the road, Al’s tire was easier to work with.  The warmer rubber slipped off the rim like butter.  We pulled the flat tube out, grabbed Alex’s spare, and had it back together in about twenty-five minutes.  We filled the tire to the correct air pressure (33psi) and waited five minutes.  On the second check, the air pressure gauge read 31psi… possibly (hopefully) just a reading error.  Two minutes later it read 25psi… that’s a leak.

Not screwing around with Alex’s shitty tubes anymore, we ripped the second one out and put in my brand new spare.  Some sweat and blood later we had the tire pumped up and holding air.  Al put his bike back together and we hopped back in the saddle.  Soon thereafter the two-lane road started winding up into an exotic mountain landscape.  Coming over the first of several passes, I was stunned.   Ahead were layers of volcano peaks fading into the distance all in different hues; dark green forests covering them almost to the top.  The whole mountain range was densely packed with every summit coming definite point aimed straight upwards.  Between them the other passes hung low and I could see the road snaking right through the center of everything; Oscar had delivered. 

More amazing than the topography was the changing vegetation all around us.  Cuernavaca is a very green city full of typical urban Mexican plant life, but this road was leading us deeper into that Tepotzlan-style jungle.  There were multiple levels of the forest just like they teach in school.  Dense ground growth at the bottom leading up to a thick overarching canopy on top.  As we climbed higher, cactus starkly sprouted up among the green trees to create a wild play on the eyes.  It was strange to see them there, but after a while they contrast nicely.

The Earth was also changing as we moved.  The road is built right into the side of these mountains so the last couple thousand years of geology are visible where the hillside is cut away.  For the first time on this trip the dirt turned copper red with white streaks layered every so often.  Even more brilliant, I saw these changes take place over and over again as we climbed, summited, and then descended meandering through the hills.  As for animals, I saw three iguanas.  One was road kill, and the other two were due up as they sunbathed on the shoulder.  For pea-brained lizards, they look eerily smart as they dart into the brush while I zoom by. The whole experience was absolutely breathtaking. 

On top of all this, the layout of the entire ride was absolutely the best stretch we have encountered on these bikes.  Constantly leaning into curves but never too tight.  Always along a ridgeline or mountainside to admire the view.  Before we left I adjusted my handlebars forward on Al’s advice.  They were a lot closer to my gut before which made my arms do most of the steering on the hard turns.  With them further away, my body now stays more upright while the bike leans and my arms simply stabilize the whole process.  It’s quite a fun new ride.

As mentioned, we enjoyed three hundred miles of that before eventually dropping into Oaxaca.  We already had a hostel in mind that Alex had his heart set on and we thought we knew how to get there.  I had written down the address and Al had forgotten the name… we know what happens when Mexicans start giving directions.  Alex and I drove around the same one mile diameter part of town for about two hours trying to find Hostel Ponchon.  It started to drizzle… and then lightning… and then the hardest rain I’ve seen since Juneau, AK.  Driving against rivers gushing down all the streets, I threw in the towel.  I found a spot to stay and get dry while Al kept searching for his hostel.  I rode through the rain in Toluca two weeks ago and I’ve been sick ever since.  I was already soaked to the bone, but it felt good to get out of the deluge.

Thirty minutes later Alex returned even wetter but with a smile on his face.  Hostel Ponchon was two blocks away.  We walked in drenched and booked two spots in a six-bed dorm.  After that, I pulled the boxes of my bike so I could get it through the front door, parked inside, dried off, and went out to eat.  After that, I went to bed. 

The past two weeks in Cuernavaca I didn’t have one good night’s sleep.  Between the constant mosquito buzzing and the uncontrollable sweating, I tossed and turned the entire time I was there.  Here at Hostel Ponchon I went out like a light around 11:00pm and didn’t wake up until 9:00am.  I’ve never felt better.  I got to know some fellow travelers at the included breakfast and we’ve been hanging out in different groups all day long.

Around 11:00am I got motivated to go do something with all my energy and decided that Alex and I needed to go to a water spring called Hierva de Agua that everyone had been talking about.  We checked a map, packed our day trip luggage, and wrestled up two passengers for the ride.  Thomas is a twenty-nine year old actor from England touring Mexico on holiday right now.  Sisi is a world traveler born in China currently studying Spanish here in Oaxaca.  They both were interested in the springs so we took them with.

 Hierva de Agua is one city away, tucked into a high mountain.  After 35km of highway, we started following the signs to the local attraction; they led well off the beaten path.  The next half hour was up and down the most technical and rough off-road riding we have encountered so far.  Washboard tire treads and loose gravel the whole way; not the ideal time to have a passenger, but we did fine taking it slow.  We rode far up the mountain until finally we arrived in a little town that hosts Hierva de Agua.

For an entry price of less than $2, the place had a lot to offer.  The springs bubble cold water right out the side of the mountain, drain down through a flat area (the size of a football field), and then over some cliffs.  The water is concentrated with calcium so everywhere it has flown for the past several hundred years there are rippling calcium formations.  In the middle of the flat area is a swimming hole that acts as an infinity pool draining further down the cliffs.  A natural wonder, wherever a stream of water leads, there is a miniature canal of calcium built up around it.  It looks as if someone laid out hundreds of little aqueducts leading down the mountainside but in reality the water flow built them over generations.  For a better idea, Google Hierva de Agua and see for yourself.  There are some dripping formations that look like they belong with the stalactites inside of caves.

Cleansed from the swim, we ate some tacos and geared up to ride back.  Just as we mounted up, the afternoon rain picked up and we were again soaked with absolutely no waterproof protection.  We got down the mountain and sped towards sunny Oaxaca.  By the time we arrived back at the hostel, I was completely windswept and dry.

Since then Al and I have been hanging out with the other guys here.  One in particular, Joe, has been a wealth of information.  Joe is on a motorcycle heading in the opposite direction.  He started in Africa, has been everywhere we’re going, and will finish this fall in Vancouver after hitting Prudhoe Bay, AK.  Joe gave us all his used maps, all the good border crossings, and all the touring advice he’s learned during his journey.  He’s been at this way longer and his experience shows.  For a thirty year old architect, he knows the world well.

Today’s dinner was pretty unforgettable.  Our group walked downtown a ways to a local ‘buffet’ style warehouse.  The entrance starts with a hundred foot stretch of meat laid out on each side of the aisle from about ten different vendors.  Further down, we bought some chilis and onions in a basket and brought them to the most desirable meat vendor we could find (like we had a clue).  We bought a kilo of different meats and had them fry it up with the veggies while we sat down at a table.  A waiter showed up and let us buy the other fixings a-la-carte: tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo, and limes.  Minutes later the meat and vegetables showed up on a platter and we all feasted for $5 each.  Very authentic.  My eyes burned from the searing flesh smoke in the poorly ventilated building, but it was some of the best food I’ve eaten here in Mexico.

Oaxaca is an incredible town.  It dates back to colonial days so it is rich with culture and heritage.  The centro hosts magnificent trees surrounding towering cathedrals and armories.  There seems to be quite a lot of Spaniard influence as well; plenty of money from what I can tell.  To any American wanting to visit Mexico, I would recommend Oaxaca over anything else I’ve seen.  At the foot of that amazing mountain range, it’s the complete Mexican experience as I want it.  Too bad, my visit here is short but sweet.  Al and I are heading out tomorrow to continue south.  We get sucked in everywhere; tomorrow’s destination will be no different.

May 20, 2011


Two more nights left in Cuernavaca.  This time, we will be ready to leave.  When Al and I actually start looking at maps, the call of adventure comes thundering back to our hearts.  Today we studied them for at least an hour in the Uninter computer lab.  The current plan is to leave early Thursday morning for Veracruz, a city located on the Caribbean coast.  Veracruz is an ideal destination because it gives us the option to head straight for Guatemala or spend a little more time in Mexico touring the Yucatan peninsula.  We’ll worry about that decision later. 

I am satisfied to announce that today we officially finished all of our errands here in Cuernavaca.  We didn’t get exactly what we wanted, we paid way too much for everything, but we are ready to hit the road again with confidence.  Daniel gave us a tour of Cuernavaca’s local tire shops today and we reluctantly ended up each paying $150 for a new rear tire.  It’s a very high quality Pirelli MT-60 and the price isn’t even that much higher than in the states.  Even so, I got here on a set of $40 Shinko tires and they gave me no trouble.  I have trouble justifying paying four times that for a ‘better tire’.  But I’m in Mexico and I got places to be so I’ll quit bitching.

Alex started the trip on used tires which got him all the way to Cuernavaca with no problems.  Unfortunately, this is as far as the rear will get him.  The rear tire on a motorcycle wears much faster than the front because it is the drive wheel and also carries the most weight.  Al’s tread on the centerline of his rear is completely gone so he will install his new Pirelli tomorrow.

As for me, my Shinko is still holding out.  I’ve got about 20% tread left so I will tie my new tire down to my luggage until it’s time to replace the old one.  As fast as these tires go, it’s worth it to haul the spare around for a few hundred more miles rather than throw away one that still has life.  My front tire still looks brand new so I won’t worry about that until I’m well into Central America.

So with that, our bikes are 100% ready to go.  That’s not to say that we won’t encounter more problems in the near future, but we’ve done all we can here in Cuernavaca.  Al’s pizza box is half-way installed and coming along nicely as well.  Tonight we are going out with Daniel and Olympia one last time; I think the plan is sushi and then shooting some pool.  Tomorrow I am repacking everything, getting a drink with Luis, and going to bed early.  Veracruz is only five hours away, but you can’t depend on the maps or the roads here in Mexico, only yourself.
Leaving Cuernavaca tomorrow as originally planned seems very doubtful.  Just when it was all coming together, we are sucked in again for another day.  Tuesday night Al and I had a great time getting sushi with Olympia and Daniel and their friends.  We said our goodbyes and told them we’d probably be too busy preparing on Wednesday to have another night out. 

Alex had to finish take his original top box and mount it on the side to replace his broken Pelican case.  He also had to replace his rear tire.  That’s about a day’s work on Mexico time.  I had to run some little errands, pack my gear again, make some preferential adjustments to my bike, and meet with Luis for drinks in the evening.

The day wore on and things were going well.  Al got his side box mounted with no problem.  We went to my favorite restaurant in all of Mexico, La Gringa, for lunch and smashed eight tacos between us.  When we came back, we still had three hours left to finish the preparation before our date with Luis.  Olympia and Daniel stopped by again and hung out for a while as we worked; it was great to see them again. 

Eventually 8:30pm rolled around and I had to go downtown to meet Luis.  Alex was trying to get his tire on for the third time at this point; so far he had been plagued by pinched tubes on all three tries.  I took off alone to meet Luis and headed to Los Arcos via taxi.

I waited for Luis outside of Los Arcos for about fifteen minutes and still hadn’t seen him.  I debated calling it a night and catching a ride back home, but then, why the hell not go in for a drink?  It’s my last night in Cuernavaca and I’m sitting outside the most happening bar… I have to go get one more taste of this city.  I strolled in, ordered four Coronitas (half-size beer bottles) and took a seat at an empty table.  I kept my eye out for Luis for the next half hour but he never showed ; probably dealing with a student suffering from traveler’s diarrhea or something.

Halfway through my drinks I started chatting with a woman at the table next door.  Andrea was born in the U.S. to Mexican parents, but she considers herself fully Mexican.  She has spent a lot of her life in different places in the states including North Carolina, Texas, and even a visit to Washington.  I was struck to learn she grew up in Chicago because she had a very similar look, mannerism, and style to my aunt Laurie.  We talked a lot about Mexican-American relations and it was very interesting to hear an educated Mexican American’s view on the current immigration battle.  She has some harsh views on the way the United States has treated the Mexican people over the years and she can back up these views with strong evidence.

I began to tell her what I was doing in Cuernavaca (all in Spanish).  The second I mentioned motorcycle, a man two tables over jerked his head to the side and started listening.  I could tell he was hanging on every word and when I explained that I was riding from Seattle to Buenos Aires he could no longer resist.

Oscar hopped over to my table beer in hand and started asking questions about the trip.  As it turns out, he is an avid motorcyclist himself and a member of the BMW owners club here in Cuernavaca.  He started explaining to me that he has infinite resources that we could tap into on our way through Central America.  According to Oscar, the BMW clubs here in Latin America are a very close-knit group and absolutely willing to help any rider coming through. 

We talked for over an hour and Oscar wanted to introduce me to his club’s president the next day.  If we get in with the BMW club, they can guide us all the way through Central America giving us information on roads, maintenance, parts, and places to stay.  He even said that they would arrange a guided motorcycle convoy to meet us at the Guatemalan border when we cross (known to be a very dangerous area). 

I was hesitant at first; we made it this far without any help and the last thing I want is Mexican big brother telling me how to have an adventure.  But Oscar spoke with such conviction how much his network of riders could help us over the next 5,000 miles.  By the time I finished my beers, I was convinced.  I agreed to meet him tomorrow morning at 9:15am outside his gated community so he could introduce me to the president of his club.  We paid our checks then he gave me a ride home in his car.  Another friendship born of beer and Salsa music.

When I arrived home, I knocked on Al’s door to tell him the news.  He was still awake; exhausted from wresting his tire for the past four hours.  To great dismay, he still hadn’t gotten it on after six tries.  Tomorrow he is going to a tire shop to have it done professionally.  I told him about Oscar and my plans for the morning.  Al agreed that Oscar would be a valuable resource and he will join me for our meeting. 

We have also nixed Veracruz.  Oscar and Andrea both swear up and down that Oaxaca is a far superior destination with a much more scenic drive.  I told this to Alex and he instantly agreed, we are going to Oaxaca.  The question is when?  My guess, Friday, but who knows.

I think I’m confident that we are hitting the road tomorrow but I’ve been saying that for days.  We have exercised just about every resource we’ve found in Cuernavaca as much as possible.  Al and I met Oscar at his gated community this morning and rode with him to his BMW club up the street.  We met the president and the two of them helped us out with a lot of important information.

It was great finally talking to some motorcycle enthusiasts about where to take the trip from here.  They explained to us the best route to take to Oaxaca; it will be full of ups, downs, curves, and beautiful views.  In Oaxaca we will contact the next BMW club and ask them for their input.  We went through their directory and picked up the contact info for five different clubs on the way to the Guatemala border. 

So far everyone has recommended the Yucatan peninsula so we will probably be heading that direction.  If we go up and around, we can drop into the top of Belize and ride its coast south.  By riding through Belize, we will be avoiding the dicey Guatemala-Mexico border; when we do have to cross into Guatemala, it will only be for a short distance before we reach the safety of Honduras. 

I don’t know what to think of Guatemala.  Ask a Mexican, they will shudder and say it’s too dangerous for travel.  Ask an American about Mexico, they’ll say your head will end up in a box in the town square.  Who’s on first?  Ask someone who did this trip last month and he’ll say that everywhere is safe if you do your homework.  Therefore, we are going to research this border crossing thoroughly, ask questions everywhere, and use this BMW network to its fullest extent. 

Whatever happens, we have plenty of time to figure out the border crossing and we won’t put ourselves in any jeopardizing situations.  The closer we get, the more expert advice we will encounter and I am confident someone will know exactly how get to Honduras without any worries.  If not, we are Eagle Scouts, and we will figure it out one way or another.

May 17, 2011

Cuernavaca Cont.

Saturday evening had a lot of potential, but unfortunately my head cold caught up with all my sleepless nights and I hit a brick wall.  After eating dinner, Alex and I took off for the town center to meet our friend Daniel and the GU crowd.  We had plans with Dan later in the night and in the meantime we were going to show the Zags where to hang out in the centro.  They were easy to find (a bunch of pale white kids gawking at their first sights in Mexico). 

We ran into themwandering around downtown and decided to join forces.  Starting at the local cathedral, we kept meandering closer and closer to the local bar scene.  At the end of the tour, we were standing in front of about six different taverns at the beginning of happy hour.  I make a good guide. 

Naturally, everyone ordered dos cervesas and we all dove into conversation together (none of it in Spanish).  Alex and I had to take it easy because we still had to ride home, but it was fun watching the college students do what they do best.  After listening to a Mexican hippie drum line for two hours while we enjoyed happy hour, it was time to show them Cuernavaca’s gem: Los Arcos.

Just a block away, we got to Los Arcos right on time while there was still seating.  It was getting dark, so Al and I decided to take the bikes home and taxi back while everyone else settled in at the bar.  We returned to find that some of the students had gone home, but the strong had survived. 

I mentioned that I was sick earlier in the week.  As it turns out, vacation-style consumption and sweaty nights in the mosquito buffet are not conducive to getting over a cold fast.  After another hour at Los Arcos I had just about lost my voice.  This has happened to me many times, most recently in Las Vegas.  Usually it’s the result of too much screaming but Saturday night it was the first sign of my body absolutely shutting down.

Around 10:00pm everyone decided to part ways.  The GU kids had to be up early for a field trip to Teotihuacan and Alex and I were following our other friends to a different bar for dancing.  We hopped in a cab with Daniel and Olympia (brother and sister who speak about five different languages) and sped off toward Eggo Bar. 
By the time we arrived I was fading fast.  My eyes had that warm, fuzzy feeling that made them stay shut every time I tried to blink.  My nose had filled with snot.  My lips were dry and my tongue sticky.  And the group was talking about which bottle of liquor to buy from the bar.  Before fainting, I had to bow out.  I think Al was suffering from something similar because he instantly agreed.  We made plans for Sunday afternoon with our friends and were gone in a flash. 

I think I slept around ten hours that night and it still wasn’t enough.  I woke up late morning with my esophagus coated in green slime.  My nostrils were clogged with mortar and my voice had barely recovered.  I got out of bed and spent the next half hour hacking and blowing into the sink until I could finally breathe.  We had made plans to take Daniel and Olympia to a nearby town called Tepoztlan on our bikes and I intended to stick to them.  Plus, the only way to get past a cold like this is to override the symptoms with adrenaline.

We all met up around noon and took off for Tepoztlan shortly thereafter.  It was a forty minute ride over some small hills and into another valley that sank into the city.  Everyone had said Tepoztlan was worth seeing and they were all right.  It was a classic Mexican city built at the base of a towering cliff range.  The streets were cobblestone and all of the buildings the same stucco style.  Obviously a tourist attraction, the entire place was one big market flourishing with arts, crafts, and delicacies. 

Daniel and Olympia recommended that we first see the main attraction: the pyramid at the top of the mountain.  They said it was a short hike so Alex and I were of course jazzed.  We walked down the main drag as the road slowly started gaining elevation and getting narrower.  Eventually, the vendors became more and more sparse and the road eventually turned into a staircase leading straight up a cliff band. 

Apparently native Mexicans never caught on to the ‘switchback’ method of trail building because this hike was literally straight up the mountain.  Someone had haphazardly laid out a bunch of big rocks in a mostly straight line directly towards the top and that was good enough.  We scrambled about a mile up to the top through some amazing terrain.  The cliffs were very unique; there would be 100 feet of sheer drop off and then a flat terrace on top.  Directly behind the terrace was another cliff wall going even higher.  The cliffs layered in this fashion on and on all the way to the top. 

Finally, at the top, we sat down on the little pyramid and took in the view.  We looked directly down on Tepotzlan and off in the distance we could see the beginnings of Cuernavaca.  We were surrounded by monolithic peaks dressed in jungle vine in every direction.  I finally startedto get that Indy feeling… but I didn’t have my hat. 

Soon enough we noticed clouds forming in the distance and decided to head down.  The descent was just as interesting and often required all four limbs to navigate the trail.  At the bottom I chugged a bottle of water, ate some tacos, and felt all better; except my cold was back on my heels.  We walked around the market for a while and toured an ancient Convent before I decided I needed to go home and lie down again. 

On the way back the typical Cuernavaca torrential rainfall attacked and I was soaked to the bone by the time we returned.  Even though it was still 80F degrees out, it couldn’t have helped.  I got into bed and wondered how we would ever get out of Cuernavaca Monday morning.  The answer: we didn’t.

While I quivered in bed, Daniel and Olympia made some calls and explained to Alex a cheap place near Uninter where we could stay.  We woke up Monday morning, packed, and headed off to see the place.  I am now happily writing from my own room which costs about $3.90/night.  It doesn’t come with much, but I have a sheetless bed, a bathroom, and internet which are all I need.  At $4/night, I’m not worried about splurging at the local taco stand so who needs a kitchen? 

Alex and I decided to stay in Cuernavaca even longer for a couple reasons.  Mostly, we are lazy Mexicans.  But also, there are still a couple lingering issues with our bikes that need to be worked out.  My clutch cable didn’t arrive until this afternoon so we would have had to wait around until 4:00pm anyway.  I have since installed it and am very excited not to have that nagging doubt every time I shift gears. 

Alex finally made up his mind and bought a new box to replace his broken one.  After realizing that he was not going to find a new Pelican case, he broke down and bought a local equivalent made out of fiberglass.  It fits perfectlyand will do everything he needs; it is also the exact box that every Mexican pizza delivery boy uses on the back of his motorcycle.  So, once he gets it mounted, Alex will look like the biggest, baddest Domino’s driver in town.  I will have fun with this. 

On the agenda tonight: more sleep and tacos.  The next couple days we will search for ambition and plan our next destination.  I’m thinking possibly Oaxaca, Acapulco, or anywhere in between.  As long as it’s on the way to Guatemala, it’s part of the plan.

May 14, 2011

Go Zags!

Saturday afternoon never felt so good.  I have a Snickers in my belly and I’m nursing a Gatorade in bed while the cicadas buzz away.  I’m pretty spent after another night in the boiler room, but I’m absolutely stoked by the influx of new people over the last forty-eight hours.  Just when Cuernavaca was starting to get boring, Al and I came across about twenty new friends in two days and it’s a whole new city; proof that it is the social aspect that really fuels a trip like this.

Yesterday, Friday, Alex and I went to Universidad Internacional (Uninter) for the afternoon to figure out when my Gonzaga family arrived.  We walked in and immediately sat down with the head school coordinator Francisco for a half hour.  He talked to us about everything; the school, our trip, the weather, even the mosquitos.  I was saddened to hear that most of my previous professors had been laid off due to a lack of enrollment.  With the recent violence in Mexico and its amplification through American media, the school’s international student body has dropped from 200 to 50 during the past four years.  There are still plenty of local Mexican students keeping the doors open, but Uninter is not the white man stronghold that I remember it to be. 

Eventually Francisco had to get back to work and he told us that we could wander the campus and use the facilities freely.  He also said that Luis and the GU students we’re arriving at 8:00pm in the evening.  Knowing they’d be busy when they arrived, we decided to wait until Saturday to track them down.  Alex and I toured the campus and then headed for the computer lab to plug in for a bit.  We caught up on the internet for a couple hours and then went back home to cook an early dinner. 

Last Friday night in Cuernavaca had been a blast, so we were ready for another long night of Mexican entertainment.  The plan was to meet Cintia and our neighbor Leti at Los Arcos around 9:00pm.  Alex and I arrived first to learn that the bar was already full for the night.  Unless we had a table reserved, we could not enter the Salsa Bar.  With no phones, we decided to wait around half an hour to see if our friends would show up with any different ideas. 

We sat outside the main entrance for about fifteen minutes people watching… and being people watched.  At one point a group of young girls walked by and point blank took a picture of us sitting there.  Then, minutes later, they returned for a photo-op with the gringos.  It turns out that two tall white guys get the superstar treatment once in a while in Central Mexico.  A lot of people have called us the ‘Torres Gemelos’ (twin towers) and everyone thinks we are brothers (we all look the same anyway).  We posed with the girls for a few photos and they went on their way.

Then, out of nowhere, a guy and girl came up to us and invited us to their table at Los Arcos.  With no better option, we obliged; great decision.  It turned out that our table was full of Uninter employees and they had seen us walking the grounds earlier in the afternoon.  I had a great time hearing about everyone else’sUninterexperiences since I had studied there four years ago.  Eventually Cintia and Leti showed up, joined our table, and the drinks kept flowing. 

I love Los Arcos, but after three hours of screaming over Salsa music, I was ready for something else.  Alex and I were getting along very well with our three new friends Olympia, Pamela, and Daniel.  The kids are locals here in their early twenties and each of them speaks at least three languages.  We all decided to stroll to a nearby alley full of smaller bars to continue getting to know each other.

We stayed in the alley for at least another hour until everyone was tired of spending money and ready to call it a night.  On the way out we made plans with our multi-lingual trio for Saturday night and then parted ways.  Alex and I slept a little easier last night because our landlord finally gave us a screen for the lone window.  Now we can finally sleep with a light breeze and hopefully less mosquitos. 

At 10:30am we woke up, ate a quick breakfast, and took off again for Uninter.  Francisco had told us that Gonzaga would be on campus Saturday morning and I was ready to see a familiar face from the United States after six weeks in Mexico.

Looking around the campus, Alex and I immediately wen t to the only white kids we saw and introduced ourselves; of course, they were the Zags.  Luis was wandering around campus and we quickly met up with him also.  It was quite a trip seeing my former Spanish professor two years after graduation in the same place that I met him: 5,000 miles from home.  Luis is in good spirits, although a little more protective of his students this year due to the growing violence. 

I really enjoyed talking to some fellow Washingtonians about Cuernavaca, the motorcycle adventure, and Mexico in general.  I hope we opened some eyes on where you can take a Spanish degree in the future… if you’re willing to ice road truck for six months.  We hung out with the Zags for about two hours until the group split off to continue settling in.

Now, still in bed and finally rehydrated from the Gatorade, I’m about to eat my body weight in chorizo compliments of Alex’s cooking.  Cintia has been a great host but it’s time to give her a break after an entire week of putting us on.This evening we are going to meet up with some of the GU kids and show them the downtown.  After that, we will head out with Olympia and Daniel again for another night of festivities.  The world seems a lot smaller when you’re making friends. 

Work, Work, Work

Despite a stuffed nose over the last couple days, I am happy to finally announce some progress here in Cuernavaca.  At 95F degrees every afternoon, it’s very difficult to get out of bed and move around, let alone gear up and hop on a burning hot engine.  Even so, Al and I have been on the move the last two days taking care of what we promised during this ten day break.

Yesterday started late as usual.  It is so hot at night here that we simply cannot fall asleep until around 2:00am.  We stay up sweating until midnight and then start our bedtime routine: cold shower, hunt mosquitos, shower again, then lie in bed while the remaining ‘moscos’ get their fill.  Naturally, we like to sleep in until around 10:00am or later.

After a hodgepodge breakfast, Al got to work taking his muffler apart because it had a leak.  He gotit off pretty quickly and then rode my bike to a nearby ‘mofle’ shop to weld the hole shut.  If you have been following along, you may remember that I messilyreplaced my broken clutch cable about 1,400 miles ago with some spare raw materials purchased in La Paz.  It was a great temporary fix, and Wednesday, its lifespan ended while Alex was heading to the muffler shop.

The cable again snapped unpredictably and this time Alex had to deal with it on the streets of Cuernavaca alone.  Luckily, I had left all my tools and spares in my panniers and he had everything he needed.  Since we had never trusted the repair from the start, we bought a second line of cable in La Paz assuming this day would eventually come.  This time around, Alex only had to detach the cable on both ends and pull it out of the stock tubing.  The La Paz replacement and spare were both smaller diameter cables (primary reason we never trusted them) and therefore Al was able to slide the fresh one back through the tubing without disassembling the entire top end.

He came back and explained to me the ordeal.  I was pretty happy that the cable had snapped during the one stint in the last 1,400 miles that Al rode my bike.  Likewise,I was also fretting because the spare that he installed was the exact same as that which had just snapped.  It was not suitable for continuing south.  So, while Alex installed his patched muffler, I researched three possible locations where I might be able to find a DR650 clutch cable. 

I took the first three results that Google delivered for Suzuki motorcycles and pulled them up on the map.  What luck that all three were within a couple of miles of each other.  I memorized the route, sketched a rudimentary map with my three targets, and prayed that one of these places actually existed.

With Al’s bike put back together, we took off for the freeway.  Mexican street signs are pretty worthless so I always go by landmarks.  I lead onto the freeway heading north looking for the movie theater on the right side a few miles up; that was my exit.  Sure enough, the Cinemex came into view and we took the exit.  My first target was called Suzuki Motors and it was directly east on the main road.  We followed the road for about two miles until it literally dead ended in a cul-de-sac.  Great.

We turned around and rode back under the freeway heading west on the same road.  The second shop was supposed to be just a few blocks past the underpass, but again, it did not exist.  Classic.  The last Google hit was Potenza Motors.  They were to be a few miles further northwest.  We continued on, made a few U-turns while finding our bearings, and eventually got on the right street.

Finally at the crest of a long, unpromising hill, I saw the beacon of hope: a big red Suzuki sign hanging off a building surrounded by motorcycles.  Sure enough, we had found a legitimate business in Mexico through legitimate planning; I was starting to wonder if this country really understood the purpose of maps or addresses.

Inside the dealership we hit the jackpot.  Spark plugs, clutch cables, tires; they had it all… and it was all way overpriced.  Seriously, we were floored to find that everything we needed cost about 70% more in Mexico than in the states.  I was done putting this off though.  I got cheap before leaving home and thought I could make to Argentina without bringing some very important spare parts.  It is fitting that I pay nearly twice as much down for them when I had had the opportunity to swing by any motorcycle shop in Western Washington two months prior to departure.  I ended up paying $70 for a new clutch cable (which will hopefully arrive by Monday) and $15 for two spark plugs.  

Excited with our discovery of real a Suzuki dealership, Alex and I took off feeling more momentum than we have in quite a while.  We did another grocery run which should last until we take off from Cuernavaca on Monday.  That evening, we got smart and cooked dinner early with the windows open.  Then we ate and watched about six hours of American TV programming.  Thank God for the NBA finals.

This morning, we kept the momentumgoing and did some necessary maintenance on the bikes.  Most importantly, we checked our valve clearance.  Part of the 12,000 mile tune up, this was a little early on my bike (currently at 10,200mi) but now I don’t have to do it again for another four oil changes.  It wasn’t too difficult of a process, but it was definitely as deep into an engine as I have been. 

In brief, you take off the seat and gas tank so you can access the engine.  Remove the spark plugs to release engine compression and then remove the valve covers.  Check the cover O-rings and then roll the bike forward in gear until the uncovered valve sits at its highest point.  Then, use the correct feeler gauges to make sure there is appropriate clearance between the four valves and their adjustment screws.  Thanks to our friend the internet, the check went off without a hitch; our valves were spot on and we made no adjustments. 

Still in the zone, we also cleaned our air filters (Baja was not easy on them), checked tire pressure, and waxed our chains.  Somewhere in the next 1,000 miles we will replace our brake pads, but not until they are further worn.  Also on the to-do list: tires.  Alex needs a rear tire ASAP and mine is running on the last 20% of its tread.  Otherwise, these bikes are simple enough that there is not much maintenance ahead in the next 10,000 miles except for chains and flats (assuming my forks hold out over these Mexican speed bumps).

These next two days I want to check out downtown a little more and also walk through the black market here in Cuernavaca.  ‘La Fayuca’ (black market) is pretty amazing here and I want to see what these Mexican digital pirates have been up to over the past four years; as I remember, you could buy any media in any format you wanted last time I was here.  The weekend will be here soon and it will be full of more swimming, a visit to some Mexican caves, and hopefully a chance to catch up with Luis and examine the latest crop of Zags.  I’ll need to be well rested.