Monday, January 26, 2015

Our culture has taught us that new things are good and used things are bad. There are very few places in our throw away society where beauty is found in patina and well worn surfaces. Of course there are exceptions. It is always sad to see the look on the faces of people on “The Antique Roadshow” on PBS when they learn that because they stripped and refinished their antique pre-revolutionary war armoire it is now worth $50,000 dollars less than if it had the original patina.

The lack of appreciation towards well worn things tends to cross over into American attitudes towards old people as well. This is all well and good when you are young in the U.S. After the age of 60 you are probably better off in a foreign country where old age is appreciated and treated with respect. Perhaps it is because I am getting older, but I must admit that I now appreciate the look of a kind, well worn face in a third world country more than I used to:

Typing “meditation” into wikipedia you will find that one definition is:

“…effortlessly sustained single-pointed concentration meant to enable its practitioner to enjoy an indestructible sense of well being while engaging in any life activity.”

Riding a motorcycle through a foreign land for hours on end can be a meditation. The more challenging the riding conditions, the more one is forced to focus on the task at hand until most extraneous thoughts are eliminated. You can become so absorbed in riding fast along a twisty mountain road on a sunny day that you may not realize that you are smiling until the road straightens out many miles later. Sort of like a moto nirvana.

Monday, January 19, 2015

This video that came out over the weekend made me smile. It's my new theme song while I still have a licence and can drive:

The police are just people like you and me. Not an easy job answering domestic abuse calls, pulling over drunks and speeders. Someone’s gotta do it. Just wish they hadn’t pulled me over in Texas in October. Ah well such is life.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Took a trip down to Baja over the holidays. My sister hadn’t been so we loaded some food and camping supplies in her truck and headed south from Arizona. The last time I rode down was maybe 8 or 10 years ago when the road was potholed pavement south of San Felipe to Puertocitos before it turned to rough washboard and light sand down past Cocos through the mountains and over to Mex 1.

I had heard of the 100 miles of smooth pavement south of San Felipe. It is like a super highway compared to days gone past:

You can still see the rough old road down below a lookout if you squint:

imagine my surprise at the gas station at the turnoff to Gonzaga Bay:

12.8 miles south of Gonzaga Bay just past a new bridge over a dry wash the pavement ends abruptly:

Finally the road that I remembered. It is vanishing like a dream you can’t quite remember when you wake:

There are only 25 miles of unpaved road remaining. Down past Coco’s corner, through the mountains over to the main highway.

Coco’s corner is still there. Stopped by to buy a couple cokes and give Coco a tip. He had one leg when I last saw him. Both legs are gone now, but he is still the same old Coco. I told him he is famoso en el internet con mis amigos de moto en ADV. He smiled. Like he cares. He is in good spirits and healthy which is all I was wondering. Sitting in the corner he looked like a Baja Budha (if you can imagine the ladies underwear still stapled to the ceiling are Tibetan prayer flags) :

Whenever life seems rough all I have to do is remember Coco hanging tough down in the desert and all my troubles seem insignificant. He is still the same irascible, can-do kind of guy with a twinkle in his eye.

Best to all for the New Year! Tio Juanito

Sunday, January 4, 2015

On a recent trip over the holidays to Baja I found this book to be helpful:

Travel Guide to Camping Mexico’s Baja by Mike and Terry Church. I normally don’t travel with guide books like Lonely Planet since they are oriented towards budget backpackers and don’t have much info on camping, secure motorcycle parking or wifi availability.

Motels have gotten quite expensive in Baja in the last 10 years so camping is your best bet if you have limited funds. Because I was traveling with my sister who had never been to Baja I found this book extremely useful for finding a campground with GPS waypoints, a shower, wifi and tent camping. We were traveling in her truck this trip and I brought my tent while she is an avid car camper, so it was nice to see which places had the stuff she would find useful like a toilet and shower.

If you have read my ride reports you know I am basically a hobo and will camp anywhere. But I was glad she brought this book along so we could find something a little more to her liking. It is up to date and it allowed us to find a nice place with wifi just south of Ensenada a few miles at sunset called the Estero Beach hotel and camping. Gated luxury camping is not really my style but when you are winter camping in Baja there are 13 hours of darkness and I can only sleep for 6 hours it means a lot of time to kill in my tent. This place had hot showers, was huge with a nice grassy malecon and wifi in my tent that allowed streaming netflix movies with Spanish subtitles (your netflix home account is now available throughout Mexico, Central and South America as of last year).

The guide also has free beaches to camp at and which places have cell phone service for people who care about that kind of thing. With all the paid ads and SEO driven websites these days on Google search it is more dificult to do a search and find useful info. Especially at night as you are driving into someplace like San Ignacio or San Felipe. This book made finding a place to camp for the night mucho easier without having to stop at an internet café and doing a search which is what I normally do.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

I checked in with the county bond officer in Cleburne Texas. I don’t have any travel restrictions while I am awaiting a trial date to be set for my drunk driving arrest. Trial probably won’t be for a couple months so I loaded my truck with some camping supplies and put my new-to-me KLX 250s motorcycle that I bought this summer in Texas on the receiver hitch carrier and headed off to visit my sister in Arizona for the holidays. Why not spend some time in sunny Arizona while I wait?

I had to finish grouting the tile in the bedrooms and bathroom where I was working at Larry’s house before I left Texas. It took longer than I expected. I finally finished at midnight, loaded up the truck and left at 2 AM. Finally on the road again. I remember smiling as I listened to classic rock on the radio driving through the night in scattered thunderstorms near San Angelo Texas. Music can take you back in time. The places you went and the people you were with when first hearing a song seem to be indelibly etched into your being, only to come back years later as distant memories. A song can trigger the memory of the perfume of an old girlfriend I haven’t thought of in years. Until the beeping of the interlock device on the truck ignition startled me from my reveries. It is like an authority figure. I must blow into it every 40 or 50 miles on this 1000 mile journey to make sure I don’t have alcohol on my breath. I had heard of these devices before but never knew how they worked before having one installed in my truck in October so I could continue driving. I thought you had to blow into it once in order to start your car. But no. Drunks are clever I guess. And to keep them from gaming the system the device continually needs to be blown into every 30 minutes or so to make sure you didn’t stop at the liquor store somewhere. Although annoying, it is a small price to pay to be able to drive through the night.

I stopped for an hour at a rest stop just before sunrise for a short hour long catnap. The wind was howling and ocassionally blowing tumbleweeds and plastic bags across the highway as I started out again at dawn. It was still raining hard as I took the entrance ramp onto interstate 10 heading west. The north wind was blowing so hard that the spray from the trucks was heading straight south across the passing lane practically blinding me even with fast wipers as I passed them. Climbing into the west Texas hills just north of Big Bend the rain turned to horizontal snow. I slowed down and followed the truck tire tracks through the slush for 100 miles or so before dropping down to El Paso. The highway was backed up with Christmas shoppers madly blocking the exit ramps to the malls in El Paso. The lines of exiting cars were streaming out onto the freeway and totally blocking traffic.

I have made a concerted effort to avoid giving or recieving birthday or Christmas presents for the past couple of decades. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my friends and relatives. I just don’t like making people feel obligated to send me a gift. The way to avoid this is to stop sending them holiday and birthday gifts. You might have to take some heat in the beginning, but believe me you are doing them a favor by letting them cross a name off their list. I feel sorry for these people who are stuck on the hampster wheel of holiday gift giving in El Paso. Christmas is for children.

After another 10 hours of driving I arrived at my sister’s house in Arizona. She had never been to Baja, so it seemed like a good idea to load up her truck with camping gear and spend Christmas in Baja. It’s changed a lot in the last 8 or 10 years since I last rode my motorcycle down to the tip. I’ll tell you all about it in the next update.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How to get started on the path to motorcycle travel- the dream phase.

Every motorcycle trip starts with an idea that captures your imagination. Whether it is dreams of riding in the Andes or visions of sitting on a sunny beach next to your parked motorcycle in a far off land or just taking off for a couple weeks to go riding closer to home, how do you get from an idea to the actuality?

The simple answer is that all you need are time, money, the desire and a motorcycle. I will assume that you already have the desire, so really just three things are necessary. Paradoxically, time is the hardest thing for most people. The three things that make finding time for travel difficult and tend to hold you in one place are family, job and material possessions. This is the reason I am always harping on young folks to get out and explore the world before they get married, have family responsibilities, a restrictive job and a mortgage and car payments.

I am a currently a self-employed divorced bachelor with no children, a flexible work schedule, supportive friends and relatives and no debt. This makes finding the time to travel much easier. But it wasn’t always this way. When I was married for over 20 years in the previous century with a mortgage and credit card debt it just meant that I had to take shorter 2 week trips. Back then if I wanted to go to say Guatemala from Oregon and back, it involved fast motorcycles and blurry scenery.

Not everyone has a supportive network of family and friends when it comes to motorcycle travel to third world countries. In fact I would say most people wil face resistance in the beginning. Which is why it is often wise to start out with shorter trips. Although motorcycle travel is more common now than it was 40 years ago when I started, most people will think you are nuts when you tell them your plans to ride the world on a motorcycle. I don’t generally bring up the subject with non-travelers.

There are things you can do to mitigate familial concerns when negotiating to take off time to go riding. Communication is key. With today’s technology advances it is possible to engage your friends and relatives in a much more meaningful way. It is one reason I started sending back email reports with pictures before the advent of blogs and ride reports. With wifi being available more widely every year in far off places it is possible to Skype call or email friends and relatives on a semi regular basis. SPOT trackers using satellite technology to give regular updates to your motorcycle’s location are another item I see married folks using. SPOT trackers keep spouses up to date on your location over the internet. Even kids at home will take an interest in seeing the dot move down the map. Another excellent way to keep folks at home engaged and informed is to write a ride report with pictures and stories from the roads less traveled. The key here is to keep it updated regularly. It has the added benefit of getting you to slow down and take more cool pictures that friends might get a kick out of back home when they come inside to warm up after shoveling snow off the front walk.

Ah yes, but back to the subject of finding the time for travel. You have to create it. The harsh reality is: you have to create the space in your schedule for it. Nobody will find the time for you. Depending on your lifestyle this may involve negotiating with your spouse and boss to open up windows of opportunity.

In the next update I will cover step two: accumulating travel funds.

more later…….