Sunday, April 29, 2012

Day 09 - Long hot ride to Navojoa, Sonora

Today's ride down highway 15 may not look like much of a ride but the high cross winds and hot temps gave it character.

I guess I'll start off with a sour note tonight. I hate to crab but honestly I've never seen so much roadside litter in my life. What's with these people, hasn't anyone ever explained waste collection to them? Maybe they're used to seeing it but I find it highly unsettling and shameful. Wake up Mexico!
This is nasty and it goes on for miles

Heading south on highway 15

Boy what a long time I spent on the slab today. I’d set the GPS up for Los Mochis just because it’s on the coast and I’m ready for some ocean time. Tonight I’m almost there but decided to stop over in Navojoa since they have some nice hotels and it was getting late. The Fiesta Navojoa Hotel won the draw as they’re easy on the eye and reasonable in cost. The room itself is nicely appointed, everything seems to work, and at a price in the mid-60’s it’s hard to beat.

Filthy beast
Last night around midnight the cowboy upstairs came dragging in with some bimbo who turned out to be a screamer. Evidently she wanted her guy to think he was the world’s number one stud so she carried on non-stop for the better part of an hour. They finally stopped but after a rest break and just as I was falling asleep she started up again. I turned the room fan on full blast and it made just enough racket to drown her out.

On the road today there were a few really great photo ops but the road has absolutely no shoulder for parking and by the time I’d get turned around the Kodak Moment had passed. The first time a small herd of skinny cows had meandered out onto highway 15, the main drag south and a Mexican cowboy was rounding them up and herding them back into their grazing land. Then just a few miles further south a guy was chasing down a small herd of goats that had ventured onto the north lane. All of this brought back memories of chasing dairy cows that got out of our pasture and were wandering around on public roads. Fun stuff, very entertaining.
Around 1:30pm I stopped for a brief rest break at a truck stop and while there got in a few pets with the local black lab girl. She was as sweet as they come and was hitting on all the customers leaving the convenience store. I thought she liked me as she responded well to the pets I gave her but when I saddled up to leave she barked at me and chased me out of the parking area.

Later on as I was getting into the outskirts of Ciudad Obregon traffic came to a crawl, then a halt. Dozens of emergency vehicles were on the scene of what I first thought might be another drug related kill but it turned out to be an accident involving a delivery truck and a semi. The delivery truck was flat on its side and the semi was buried in the sagebrush in a ravine. At least 4 ambulances hauled people out so it was pretty serious.

Riding through Obregon I took a few pics of some old grain mill buildings. It always amazes me how many places like that are still around and in some cases they’re still being used.

This evening after putting El Nino to bed I walked the few blocks to the restaurant recommended by the desk clerk. It was a good call, I had their house specialty called the Aztec something-or-other and it turned out to be really good. Rice and beans on the side of a flank steak covered with gravy, exactly what my girlish figure needs.
That’s about it for today, my butt hurts so I’m going to get horizontal early tonight.
PS - Me brain's too frazlzzed to do any post editing so you'll just have to live with the errors...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Day 08 - I'm in freaking Mexico. Hola!

This morning I figured I’d load up El Nino, grab the freebie complimentary breakfast and roll out early. Yesterday I’d spotted a sign for Mexican insurance by the freeway and if it looked good I’d stop in and sign up, couldn’t take more than a few minutes and I’d be on my way. Wrong. Wrongo. Duh.  I ended up going to three different places, none of whom seemed like they were really into bike insurance. I even called AAA which was a real bust. Finally I stopped at the Holiday Inn Express in Nogales and marched in with my notebook in hand. There was a very nice young lady manning the front reception desk and I told her “I have to use the Internet, do you have the password?” She said “Sure” and wrote it on a slip for me. How nice; how convenient. So I parked my butt in one of their cushy lounge chairs and spent the next half hour signing up for an on-line overpriced policy.
Done with that I buzzed through the border thing and mixed it up with the sporty crowd Mexican drivers all of whom were trying to leave Nogales at the same time and none of whom can see bikers. Weird as HiViz yellow may look I was really glad I was wearing it.
Eventually the traffic began to diminish and I found I was traveling on the right route that would take me south to the immigration place where I could import El Nino and myself. There were lots of road signs warning drivers they had to stop and drop a few pesos before proceeding so finding the place was dead simple.

I locked up my jacket & helmet and strolled casually inside armed with all the required documents that I knew they would want. Thanks to the input and advice from ADVrider members I even knew what the order of events would be. 

So, being full of my well-prepared self I strolled manly-like up to the lone gal occupying the sign-in desk, said “Hola” which she returned and then boys and girls, she started speaking to me in Spanish. Wait a minute I thought, doesn’t she know I’m a gringo and "Hola" is the sum total of my Spanish vocabulary? Plus her command of English was even less than my Spanish but we were both saved when her boss walked in and volunteered to take over. 

I think he volunteered but there were a lot of squeaky sounds coming from the girl which may have had some bearing on his decision.  At least his English was excellent so things went a lot smoother from that point on.
El Nino's legal for six months now

Me too
Importing a vehicle into Mexico is a lot like getting something done in the military, lots of forms, plenty of lines to wait in, fees to pay – some of them really BIG – but gradually they tire of old gringos with no language skills and damn near deaf to boot. Making someone repeat every single sentence four or five times actually helps expedite things as they get so frustrated all they want is for you to go away. I kind of like to stand there with a silly grin on my face nodding my head no matter what they say but as soon as I detect a tone of questioning which usually indicates a choice of something is required I ask them to clarify. In English I ask this. Which often brings out the furrowed eyebrows.

Finally it was all finished but before leaving I walked around and personally thanked every one of the clerks who’d dealt with me. Only one spoke English and he gave me a big smile and said something in Spanish, probably like “Ride safe and enjoy your visit to our country my friend.” Or maybe not.

So there I was blazing down the roads of Mexico enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and warm  summer-like temps. This morning I figured it was going to get hot as hell later in the day so I wore my lightweight hiking pants, the ones that have zip-off legs, and a super-light T-shirt from REI, purveyors of overpriced feel-good silly gear. It all seemed to work though as I stayed cool under the big yellow HiViz tent I was wearing. I’m sure people think I’m burning up from the looks of it but it’s really comfortable.
I had set the GPS destination for Hermosillo, a fairly big town and far enough away I knew I wouldn’t make after such a late afternoon start. This system tends to make it easier to deal with the dumb lady who lives inside the device as she thinks we’re really going somewhere, plus if I divert a little she knows how to get me back on track without having to be reprogrammed.

At one point I came to a toll road which I hadn’t planned on and as I had zero pesos and all the prices were in that other language I pulled over to scope things out. Since there are no money exchange options at those locations I decided how could she refuse good ol’ American greenbacks so I pulled back into line and went through the process of explaining. One thing I’ve learned over the years is toll booth operators really don’t want you hanging around chatting it up, at least most of them don’t so she was willing to break a twenty and give me change in pesos. I haven’t a clue what that toll cost and I don’t care, I got some change back didn't I?
The really fun part of the whole deal occurred after I went through; I spotted a place to pull over which I did as I’d just shoved the pesos into my tank bag and moved off without zipping it up. About the time I had it secured I noticed movement next to me and sure enough it was a guy eyeballing the loot. Have you ever noticed how easily panhandlers the world over are able to make their needs known to the mark? 

This guy was no different but instead of shooing him away I asked him where the nearest hotel might be. Now the fun began, he somehow recognized the word hotel and proceeded to tell me. In very rapid Spanish of course, including lots of hand gestures to simulate driving downhill around sweeping corners and eventually indicating if I would look up to my left I’d see it. I gave him a buck. Hey, I needed the pesos for myself; he probably knows how to spend dollars. He said thank you anyway. Hey, did he say that in English or am I beginning to speak Spanish?
A few clicks further up the road I saw a hotel off to my left, the very one I’m writing this report in. Checking into this place was a hoot; the poor guy at the desk speaks zero English so we spent a fun-filled twenty minutes getting things done. Actually the check in part was easy, it was the deposit on the TV remote and the room key that turned into a Laugh-In episode. We were both getting a bit hysterical by the time it all got figured out but it eventually it ended.

My room is, well, inexpensive I guess you could say. I’m ok with it, there’s a bed, the toilet works,  it has an air conditioner that I had to turn off as it was getting too cold; there’s even a couple of lights that work. All the comforts of home plus it’s clean. I sort of wish the closet thing had hangers though. Oh, and the hill with the long sweeper you go down that terminates about where the motel is? Truckers seem to love it; gives ‘em a chance to play with their Jake brakes.

                                                                     Nice pins Dude....

Nice closet but no hangers...eww
Besides the motel being here there is a restaurant next to it so I wandered over to see what they were serving for dinner. Turned out to be a Chinese restaurant without a Chinese person anywhere on the premises; maybe even within a hundred clicks.  

I ordered B with a big diet coke

I missed this. Simply stated it says No Plastic. More greenbacks. Dinner was $8.50

I was seated by a guy who is probably the manager and he was followed by a kid who looked to be in his teens, most likely the manager’s son. When he spoke to me and I responded in English he freaked and disappeared behind a false wall where he more or less remained the whole time I was there. The manager took my order and when it was ready he had his little girl deliver it to my table. That was pretty cool since she seemed to have more on the ball than her older brother.
The food was ok and there was lots of it so I had to leave half. Sorry all you starving kids in China but I ain’t riding around with day old Chinese food in my tank bag in this heat.
Back in my room I decided it was time to give my new SteriPen from REI its first workout. I expect all of you have one but this is a new trick gadget for me, sterilizes drinking water at the rate of one liter per minute and the end product doesn't taste funny. Sort of sterile but not funny and you don’t have to worry about getting Titdikaka or whatever you get from drinking water that houses leeches, etc. It worked really easy and when the minute was up a little light came on plus a smiley face appeared on the display. Makes it safe to drink Mexican water any time anywhere.

So that’s it kiddies, I finally made it past the border confusion and I’m feeling like I’m in Mexico at last. See ya tamale…

Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 07 - Nogales, Mexico....Gawd a'mighty!

I was up at the crack of doom this morning, somewhere around 5:45am. Other than having to tinkle I could have slept in but I remembered this was the day I’d finally head to Mexico.
I got out the maps and began to study them in earnest to get a firm idea of where I wanted to cross the border. Since Nogales was due south of Oracle around 80 miles or so I figured it would be as good a place as any.
Mike and Lois finally drug themselves out of bed and after a cup of coffee they began to resemble humans. Well Lou anyway, Mike still looked like an 80-year old elephant’s trunk. We spent a few moments saying goodbye and since I was pretty wound up to get going I hugged Lois and shook Michael’s trunk, uh, hand and I was outta there.

Larry if you post that picture I will kill you, swear to God I will.

Hey Parmenter you drank all the coffee! Thanks a lot.

The GPS fiend soon had me heading south on highway 77, then after rounding Tucson it kicked me onto highway 19. Before exiting the Tucson area I stopped at a Subway and gobbled down a healthy flat bread thingy. Lois had offered to fix breakfast but I wasn’t quite ready at the time so she got off easy. Next time will be different.
Once on 19 the countryside seemed especially nice, the stuff of western movie sets and it was great to ride through it. At one point I saw a Spanish Mission and not being in a hurry I made a side excursion to see it. Tourists were beginning to assemble in groups so I decided to shoot a pic and get back on the slab. Name? What name? Do missions have names?

Nogales soon showed up with plenty of signs claiming the best rates on Mexican insurance, blah, blah, blah, but I kept riding as I figured there would be plenty of good deals available at the border. 

What happened next completely threw me; one minute I was tooling along through Nogales, AZ, and the next I was at the border crossing. No fanfare, nada, just a bunch of loudly painted signs hawking more insurance, tons of people milling around and suddenly there was the border! I happened to be in the lane with a sign that said “Nothing to declare” and since I didn’t I just stayed in it. In less than a minute I was becoming familiar with two varieties of Mexican topas; the single straight line asphalt bone-jarring hump and the multiple round hubcap size steel dots spaced exactly so you can’t ride between them. Slippery devils too.
Once I was over this short torture section I found myself immersed in Nogales, Mexico among some of the world’s most radical drivers. There didn’t seem to be any other bikes but mine and the fact I’d not been asked to sign the bike in at the border began to worry me. According to everyone I’d talked to who rides in Mexico you’re supposed to go through a complete import routine for your bike plus yourself, you can’t just drive in and hang out.
I spent the next twenty minutes or so thinking about this and decided I must have missed something at the border so I’d better go back and do it right. Getting into Mexico was a glide on the ice, getting out was an entirely different matter. It seems that half of Mexico and all of Arizona’s expats were on their way north like a bunch of Lemmings and I was one of them. It took an hour to get turned around and headed back.

I am not Mr Happy here

When I eventually got to the US crossing I asked the nearest guard where I was supposed to go to do the import thing and he said he’d never heard of it. His one simple question threw me, “Are you going to leave the bike in Mexico, sell it or something?” “Nope, I just understood I was supposed to register it and fill out a bunch of forms, etc. Plus I need to buy Mexican insurance.” I told him. “Well you’d better go through again and check with the people who handle imports” he said.

Perfect, just freaking perfect I thought, there’s thousands of people milling around and I draw the guy who doesn’t know what I’m supposed to do. Finally I figured I may as well leave and start over from the American side so I crossed back. It was hot as hell and I was ready to call it quits for the day so I decided I’d ride back north, check into a decent motel, do a bit of laundry, get something to eat, catch up on my blog – Mike aka Mr Frugale` doesn’t have Internet access at his place – and when the dust settles get in touch with some of the ADV riders I know who will help fill in the blanks.

Mr Clean

And that boys and girls brings this saga up to the present tense, sorry but no film at eleven. Did I mention that Nogales, Mexico is a bit rough around the edges? Maybe even through the core too?

Day 06 - Wasting away in Oracle, AZ

The remainder of my ride to Oracle would be short and leisurely, less than 100 miles so I slept in and lazed around the room taking my time. When I awoke I was finally able to take in the Grande Vista that my motel was named after. Eww...

Finally packed up I walked over to the office to get a cup of coffee before leaving only to discover there was none made. The manager spotted me and came out ready to brew up a pot but since it was fairly late I knew it would go to waste so I told him to forget it. 

They make the other people park in back. I'm a VIP so I park out front. Nice.

The dinner I’d had at Tag’s last night was good so I headed back for breakfast and ordered their scrambled eggs with green chilies, homemade hash browns, toast and coffee. The portion was huge and the spuds were some of the best I’ve eaten anywhere but I managed a tiny bit of restraint and only ate what was reasonable. If kids are starving in China because I didn’t clean up my place I’m truly sorry but my pants are tight enough as they are. Besides, kids are supposed to eat junk food, not hash browns.

Nasty rain must be coming

It's my helmet that makes me look fat, not the yellow jacket. Duh...

I rode south through an area called the cactus forest, stopped for a few pics here and there. The sky was beginning to blacken but I only felt a few drops of rain and nothing more came. I made another stop to explore an area of public lands where I saw some really great cacti....that absolutely has to be the plural form for cactus, eh? Eh?

Beautiful public lands - posted of course. 

Close by I saw a small memorial marker where someone had died and since it was a ways off the road I think it may have been non-traffic related, maybe a homicide? It was pretty sad in any case.

The wash where the little marker was located
And speaking of memorials I saw the Tom Mix memorial too. I always thought he was a Hollywood fictional character but evidently he was real and people admired him. Some of the people have been shooting holes in the horse at the top of his memorial so maybe not everyone admired him.

Sorry Tom. Anyone know his horse's name? Not Trigger or Champ.

Once I got to Oracle I waited at the Circle K gas station for my buddy Mike to show up and lead me to his new home. I could probably have found it but he volunteered so I took the easy way out.

I've never understood this facination with elevation. Seems a bit odd to me.

The blog's starting to get exciting now...Circle K !
While waiting a bunch of HD bikers showed up making all the racket that you can expect out of grey-haired children. One of the riders was on white Honda Goldwing and since he was bringing up the rear I asked him if they made him ride in the back. “Sometimes” he answered rather wistfully. His bike was hospital clean and so was he including the dumb-ass Harley vest he had on. No way would I make that kind of concession but I suppose he wanted to be part of the pack. Poor guy must be clueless about how much better his bike is than any of the ones his buds were riding.

Nice front yard Mike.

Grrrrr..watcha doing in my yard Dude...
Mike showed up and led me to his new digs where I reunited with his recent bride Lois aka Lou whom I’ve known for nearly as long as Mike, going on 50+ years now. She’s looking pretty damn good but Michael looks like an 80-year old elephant’s trunk. Probably has something to do with the people he’s associated with in his life. Anyway we had fun catching up on all the stuff we’ve been up to and when it was time we went to dinner at a local barbeque place. I’ve been being careful about my food intake but that place drove me over the top so I had a rack of baby back pork ribs done with mesquite and sides of slaw and applesauce. Not that I was still hungry but it seemed like a good time to have a slab of cheesecake drizzled with raspberry sauce so I did. Now my pants have shrunk another inch…gawd…
We stayed up late yakking some more and Lou left us to ourselves so we could discuss old girlfriends and ex-wives. I expect there were a few ears burning and we’ll probably both have to keep an eye out in case any of them really heard us. You know guys, women don’t really need to hear you, they can somehow sense it when you’ve been saying the wrong stuff. We’ve gotta be more careful.
That ended another fine day on this ride and as I was about to drift off the neighbor’s two dogs set up a howling session in response to some far off coyotes yodeling. The great southwest; always fun to visit and probably a great place to live. Especially if you happen to be a dog.  
Tomorrow I’ll head to Mexico! Yeoweee!