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.