Showing posts from February, 2010

In Guatemala

I am in Guatemala, and having trouble finding wireless, so this is an email update, more later. I expect to be in San Salvador tomorrow, I am about 60 km away from there. -- Erik S

Oaxaca Tabasco and Chiapas

I nearly froze to death in Mexico!  The road from Oaxaca to Tuxtepec was even  better than the road to Oaxaca.  The road climbs up into cool pine forests and every so often I pass one of the seven dwarves in Mexican clothes packing a load of firewood on his or her back.   (In Oaxaca anyone over five feet in height is a tall person.)  Finally I reach the top of a ridge and on the other side the road descends into a gloomy mist.  Fine, I have my outer jacket, sans liner, over a Tee shirt  and jeans, as it was about 30 C when I left the City of Oaxaca (Oaxaca is also the state name).  After great weather all day I figure this is temporary, so I just keep on riding.  Pretty soon it is raining, a very cold rain that feels like ice.  I am going downhill, I can 't see very well and the road is as straight as a corkscrew, with no place to pull off and change into warm clothing.  By the time I do stop I am well on my way to hypothermia in a tropical rain forest with wild banana trees gro

Follow the Yellow Road

My Mexican road map shows main roads in red, secondary roads in yellow.  So far I have stayed on the red roads.  Today I want to get to Oaxaca from Puerto Escondido, which means I will have to take the yellow road.  My friends; I have seen moto heaven.  And I also spent time in moto purgatory.  To get to Oaxaca from the coast two mountain ranges or ridges have to be crossed.  This translates to about 200 km of switch backs with no straight longer than maybe 3 or 400 meters.  My average speed is about 50 kmh and nobody is passing me.  For a prairie boy coming from where the only tool needed to design a highway is a framing square, this is like sitting down to a 20 course meal after 30 years of bread and water.  Up, up we climb until you can actually see heaven.  The road is mostly great, well paved, but narrow and twisty.  Traffic is light, but there are always the buses.  It is still a KTM road though, as each town has its topes (speed bumps) and potholes.  The road leading into a

Understanding Mexico

  Chilpancigo, at first glance, could only be improved by the detonation of a nuclear bomb.  The carreterra libre runs beside the town, which from the road looks like a kid dumped a box of toy houses on a hillside, and then went away to watch TV.  Nevertheless Chilpancigo will be my home for the next two days.  I pull into the first hotel I see, and there I meet Jaime, one of those rare kindred spirits we meet from time to time.  Jaime speaks good English, has a motorcycle and a scooter, and a wide range of interests that complement mine.  Jaime is obviously very intelligent, as we agree on most things.  We talk and drink beer till Jaime's Rooster announces it is morning.  I ask Jaime about Mexico, why it is the way it is.  Jaime tells me when Cortez arrived in 1519 with his 500 soldiers, Mexico was populated by a large number of Indian tribes, all of whom were under the thumb of the Aztecs, who the other tribes hated more than they hated and each other (which they also did).  So

Central Mexico

Guadalajara and Mexico City are very modern cities, but also very Mexican.  One moment you are surrounded by modern buildings, sidewalks full of well dressed commuters, and the next you are overlooking smog and urban blight. The central part of Mexico is  very crowded and confusing for me.  I give up on the free roads and take to the toll roads.  The Mexican toll roads are the best roads you could find anywhere.  They avoid the towns and villages, are well paved, have helpful signs for navigation and are pretty much empty.  After burning through hundreds of pesos in a few hours the reason they are virtually unused becomes clear. In Morelia my hotel is a building that is probably 300 years old or more.  I found out later that it may have been technical training school. (really!) The bike is parked on a polished marble floor in the middle of the lobby.  When Sheraton Four Seasons offers this kind of accommodation, maybe I will stay there. Coming from a place that barely existed 10

Cities are Evil! Email update

Just a short note from Mexico City. I am locked up in a sex motel. The bike is in a garage below me, the only way in or out is through the garage door, using the garage door switch. No key! They ain't gonna give me one. Very nice inside though, I could leave and probably will, but I can't lock up. No internet, but I am connected to some poor fool's wireless. How did I end up in this fix you ask? I just spent about 4 hours in Mexico City traffic (I probably could have walked faster) looking for a hotel. This is the first one I saw. and I ain't going any farther. Tomorrow first thing I will leave MC and head for Cuernavaca. Mexico City is very beautiful, very modern and very congested. Don't even think of driving here unless you know your way around. The layout is radial, so every place you go takes you away. Somehow I stumbled onto the road to Cuernavaca, which was my next destination anyway, so here I will stay. More later. -- Erik S


The ferry for Mazatlan leaves at 8:00 PM, but passengers are told to be there 3 hours ahead of time.  I get there early, 1:00 PM, having seen all there is to see in La Paz (or all I wanted to see).  La Paz Centro was a little nicer than the outer parts, but it is still a long way from being as attractive as the other towns I have passed through. I get checked in at the ferry, leave the bike in the care of a line of tractor trailers also waiting for 'Chihuahua Star' and look for the waiting room I have assumed would be somewhere.  All there is are some metal chairs under an open roof.  Oh well, it wasn't like it was very cold.  Here I meet Robin a retired Air Canada Pilot from Tisdale SK.  We hang out waiting for the ferry and swap life stories.  We finally discover that there are at least a half a dozen food vendors outside the 'controlled zone' where we are waiting for the ferry.  It turns out is OK to leave the terminal so we feast on some excellent tortillas.

La Paz

Few cities show their best side when they are entered.  However, La Paz just doesn't seem to get any better as I penetrate to the center.  Maybe the kindest thing I can say is that it will be a long time before anyone calls La Paz 'the Paris of Baja California Sur'.  My hotel room is pretty nasty too, the TV has 6 channels, one of them is a looping porn tape. The city is very busy, with lots of mysterious industry taking place in small dilapidated shops.  My plan is to leave as quickly as I can get on the ferry to Mazatlan, which is 20:00 tomorrow, or about 24 hours.  After a few hours in my depressing room I have to get out. I leave my roommate, Cucaracha, in charge "¡No friends!".  (Later I find out that I was probably staying in a "sex motel", a place where a married man can take his girlfriend or secretary for a nooner.  I always choose a motel where the cars, and my bike are hidden from view, so do Mexican philanderers :-) If I was in any city i


Mulege is in Baja California Sur (BCS), or South Baja California.  It is where Mexico's valiant defenders were able to repel the advance of the imperialist Yanqui invaders in 1847, ensuring that Baja remained part of Mexico as opposed to being the California Panhandle. The Santa Rosalia Mission was founded in 1705, the building dates to 1766.  The industries are tourism, fishing and taking tourists fishing. The town is built on lava rocks that slope toward a bay, the streets are narrow and follow the  contours of the rocks.  I have to watch my step walking while rubbernecking as even the sidewalks dip and rise. A hurricane ripped through here last September.  It made quite a mess of much of the beach front property.  The town itself seems to have escaped. I am staying over for a day because it is nice here, and it is time for a break.  Lots of Canadians and Usians are wintering here. 

Muchos Pesos

One of my many challenges is getting a grip on cost and value.  It is all very well to know that one my Canadian dollars will buy me 12.50 Pesos, but putting it in practice takes practice.  Combien es? results in 80, 100, 400 etc., my little wheels are not able to keep up.  Finally I come up with something that works for me, 100 Pesos is 8 Canuck Bucks. What you see below is the Mexican equivalent of a McDonalds Value meal (59 Pesos, you do the math).  An excellent illustration of the difference between cost and value.


BC is Baja California, Mexico's western most state, just like it's northern cousin, British Columbia, or BC. One of the reasons I went this way is that I was hoping to get away from the depressing sameness of urban North America.  In Ensenada I encountered a large shopping area with the usual big box stores, it could have been South Edmonton Common.  However that proved to be the exception that proved the rule.  I was not disappointed in finding something different. The towns are interesting. Apparently everyone takes a pretty light hearted view of building codes and standards.  (click on the next picture if you are electrically literate) The only pavement is highway one, the town roads are sand.  Houses and buildings are painted bright vibrant colours and are typically surrounded by a high cement or stone wall with iron gates, or as near they can get using found materials.  Day two (Feb 6), it rains all day.  I don't get very far, just to the town of Vincente

Back on land

Today I left MS Zaandam and I am continuing my journey south.  I have been in Mexico for about 8 hours now.  So far so good :-) The cruise was,  interesting.  It seems that a cruise with 10 days at sea and five days visitng various ports is most attractive to the geriatric crowd.  Now I know that I am old, but I felt pretty young on that cruise.  Actually it was a combination of young and old, as the crew was very young, so they would have seen me as yet another old guy, but the passengers were probably averaging somewhere between 70 and 80, which to me at 60 is pretty damn old.  Depressing, as this is what I have to look forward to.  I have always had some kind of wheels, but walkers and wheelchairs are not what I daydream about. Anyroad the food was good, the crew was great, and my family was able to get through the 15 days without killing each other, so all was good.  Hawaii was fun, I posted a few pics on my Picasa site, The boat un

The Cruise

Fifteen days is a long time to be locked aboard a cruise ship, especially if ten of those days are at sea. The cruise ship is a carefully crafted experience. Designer food crafted by invisible chef Rudy, bland music, and activities. There are also plenty of opportunities for the cruise line to engage in 'adding value', and 'up selling'. The overall effect is summer camp for seniors with a hint of carnival midway. More mall boat than love boat. The crew that interact with passengers are extremely polite, friendly, and apparently happy to be there. The passengers are also very nice to the crew. There are also the rarely seen crew who keep the ship running and on course. Captain Jan Smit (John Smith in Dutch) is a voice on the intercom, giving us the ship's daily progress. We are denied access to the ships bowels due to security concerns, but we glimpse the occasional khaki clad painter or technician on their maintenance rounds. The ship itself