January 4, Valladolid, State of Yucatan.
The last couple of days were a quick trip through Merida and a day in Chichen Itza. Now, in Valladolid, a town close to Chichen Itza, I'll spend a day or two catching up on pictures. Depending which book you read or person you talk to there is disagreement about whether Palenque or Chichen Itza is more impressive, or breathtaking, or whatever. In my opinion Palenque beats Chichen Itza but I'll try to get both groups of pictures up soon so all 3 of you that read this stuff can decide for yourselves. Until then here's some Olmec photo's from La Venta and some nuggets about their amazing and intriguing history...
January 1, Campeche, State of Campeche.
I think last night was the most boring New Years Eve I've ever had! The whole city was pretty much shut down. It felt like everyone was at some secret after-hours party and I wasn't invited! The zocolo had very few people in it and I walked around for an hour looking for signs of life but there were only small, quiet friends & family gatherings here and there. I asked some of the few people I saw what was going on and they said most people are with their family. I went back to the hotel and worked on internet pictures. I'm leaving for Merida now.
December 31, Campeche, State of Campeche.
Saddam's dead! I thought for sure that something would get messed up and he'd still be eating Doritos for New Years Eve. Campeche seems like a decent place to be for tonight's festivities. I'll probably hang out in the zocolo, protected from pirates by the cities stone walls, and blend in with the natives. I finished the last of the pictures from the State of Veracruz, now I'll start working on Tabasco, Chiapas and Campeche.
December 30, Campeche, State of Campeche.
250 miles is a long way to ride in one day wherever you are but it's much more difficult in Mexico than the USA. That's how far it was from Palenque to Chiapas. It took about six hours with stops and everything and the roads were great by Mexico standards.
Campeche [San Francisco de Campeche] has more of a conservative nature; less singing and dancing than the more tropical states of Veracruz, Tabasco and Chiapas. It's on the gulf of Mexico but there are no real beaches, it's mostly a rocky coastline. Lots of small fishing boats just north and south of the city. The city really is built like a fortress - in the 16th and 17th century there were many attacks by pirates so Spain fortified and armed the city to defend itself. Riding through the city looking for a hotel I saw 3-4 different forts and strongholds throughout the city and I'm sure there are many more. All of these factors probably help add to the conservative feel of Campeche. I'll probably stay here for New Years and use the time to catch up on website pictures, but it's always more fun take pictures of the new stuff than publish the old!
December 28, Palenque, Chiapas.
In Villa Hermosa I saw the Olmec heads from La Venta; the original ruin site is 120km west of Villa Hermosa. The the original ruins were very close to a site where oil was discovered and apparently some of the site was destroyed by the oil company, then some artist from the 50’s paid to have all the heads and artifacts moved to the city center park in Villa Hermosa. It's a good location and a decent park for the ruins with a mediocre zoo included. I saw some of the original site as well but didn’t explore too far because the little shit thug kids in the parking lot. They were asking for money to watch my motorcycle and made strong implications that something could happen to it if they didn’t watch it. I acted like I didn’t understand and went to the front desk of the park to ask if I could put my moto by the front door because the kids said it’s dangerous and something could happen to it in the parking lot. They let me put it right at the front door (it’s not a busy park because all the good stuff was moved to Villa Hermosa) but I still didn’t want to leave the motorcycle very long and I wanted to get to Villa Hermosa before dark so I made a very quick trip of it. The 'kids in the parking lot' scheme is something I'll be seeing lots more of but most places are ready to provide a safe place to park, so far.
Today I saw Palenque, the most amazing site of ruins I’ve ever seen. Huge buildings and pyramids with the jungle surrounding them, very dramatic. The pictures were well worth the trip. As usual I’m behind and have to catch up on many other ruin sites before Palenque makes the WWW, or my little piece of it anyway.
Eco-stoned-Euro-trash are hanging out in the somewhat boring little zocolo here; tapping their drums and spinning sticks and balls on the end of a string and simple attempts at juggling and dropping stuff; generally performing acts of little to no talent, just like someone who learns nunchucks for 10 minutes and thinks they’re putting on a great show. The town of Palenque basically exists to take tourists money when they visit the ruins which are five miles south of here. I always see these eco-folks at the more prevalent ruin sites, like here, Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu, etc.
There are more che-heads around as well [people wearing Che-Guevara shirts, hats or other Che garb] and the further south I go the more I’ll see; the poorer the people the more likely they are to embrace anything called “Change”, “Revolution” or “I hate rich people”. It’s also why Obrador [the leftist loser in the recent pres. election] posters and stickers have been plastered on many more cars and buildings and phone poles since I left Puebla. I saw some Obrador stuff in Veracruz, a little more in Tabasco, and even more here in Chiapas; all progressively poorer states leading to proportionately greater number of Obrador signs. He’ll stop appearing when I leave Mexico but Che will continue on throughout the Americas. He's my security advisor; the more of him I see the more I need to make sure that my things are secure. I’m pretty sure I could devise a mathematical equation, creating a trend line that would accurately predict the degree of likelihood of things being stolen, or people being robbed, or both, by the number of Che-head sightings in and around the zocolo of the city. In Mexico the equation could also use Obrador posters as a predictor of the same.
Tomorrow I leave for Campeche, should be a fairly long trip.
December 27, Villa Hermosa, Tabasco.
Getting ready to leave for Palenque. I was going to leave yesterday but decided to stay another day and work on pictures from Veracruz. There'll be two pages, here's the first:
December 25, Villa Hermosa, Tabasco.
Not a bad place to spend Christmas. It's a very hot and humid town in the valley right in the middle of the state of Tabasco. I got here 2 days ago and have mainly wandered around talking to people and taking some pictures and I visited the park called La Venta, an Olmec ruins site. Between Veracruz and here I spent a night in Minatitlan, an oil refinery town that was sort of like a little piece of New Jersey in Mexico.
Tomorrow I'll head to Palenque, probably the most significant of the Mayan ruins that I'll see...
December 21, Veracruz, Veracruz, Mexico
I've finally finished the last bit of pictures from around Puebla. Tomorrow I'll head toward Villa Hermosa but I'll probably take two days to get there. If I like it I'll stay for the holidays, Otherwise I'll find someplace I like.
December 20, Veracruz, Veracruz, Mexico
The good news is that my computer is okay, it was the power cord that was not working so I just needed to find a new one. The not as good news is that they are very very expensive! The first one I found was about $140.00 (yeah, American dollars) which is why I spent pretty much the whole day looking for a cheaper deal. Radio Shack had a cheaper model for $90.00, still about $80.00 more than I would have expected to pay for a power cord but it was getting late and all the stores were closing so I bought it. I guess the reason they price this item so high is BECAUSE THEY CAN, simple as that. Without power your computer is worthless.
Veracruz is a nice relaxing city. The people are relaxed and helpful, the climate is tropical but not too hot, at least now. The tourist season started December 15th so things are more expensive, but mainly on the weekends. There are still good deals on good hotels during the week. I'll be spending the next day or two here continuing to work on the website then I'll be heading to Villa Hermosa and toward the Mayan Peninsula. I'll probably be around Merida or Cancun for X-mas.
Next batch of Puebla photo's: Puebla 2
December 19, Veracruz, Veracruz, Mexico
Here in Veracruz - warm and cloudy, overall decent atmosphere and nice people, I guess it's a better place than many to have computer problems. I have two batteries, one is completely dead and this one has about an hour left so I thought I'd write a short note before I go about trying to figure out what's wrong. There's something wrong with the power source. Not the wall, I've tried plugging into several different places. Hopefully it's just the cord and I can find a new one. What's happening? When I plug into a power source no power gets to the computer. The little battery light that turns green when the battery is charging and red when the battery needs charging is only flashing red and green when I plug in the computer. If it's not just the cord I fear I'll spend many hours on the phone with those Geek Squad folks from Best Buy who promised that their additional warranty would work allover the America's as long as I'm in a moderate to large sized city. Veracruz probably counts, or I'll return to Puebla which definitely counts.
Wish me luck and let me know if you have any clues that could help. I'll still be able to check email from anywhere. As soon as I get it fixed I'll transmit a couple more pages of pictures but I don't want to waste the little time I have left on my battery.
December 16, Papantla, Mexico
After a couple of days in Veracruz I went to Papantla to see El Tajin, a remarkable city of ruins. On the way up the coast I saw Cempoala [also spelled Zempoala], a fairly unremarkable city of ruins, and on the return from Papantla to Veracruz I saw Quiahuiztlan, a burial site from 1200 AD. The site is only 1-2 miles off the main highway but the gravel road to get there is one that makes you hope you don't get a flat tire; lots of large sharp-edged rocks. There were several other sites between Veracruz and El Tajin, mostly representing places where Cortez landed and rivers that he and his army used to transport Spain's army.
I didn't get a flat tire and the bike is still running great and hasn't leaked a drop of oil since I left Puebla. The previous leaks were mainly from the oil filter but a couple of bolts under and around the engine needed tightening as well. From Seattle to Puebla it never leaked once. It was only after sitting for a week, when I returned to Oregon for my Grandfathers funeral, that it began leaking. That either means that someone tampered with it, which I really doubt, or that sitting cold for a week enabled the gradual leaking, which is what I think - especially knowing that I didn't tighten the oil filter very much because they can be a real pain in the ass to remove when they're too tight. The two days of fixing involved finding someone to cut a half inch of of my 'alan wrench' so that it would fit in a spot where I would have otherwise needed to remove the engine from the frame. Some guy with a machine shop on the 1700 block of Dos Oriente did it for free - I tried to pay him but he insisted that he was just glad to help. That was cool.
Now I'm back in Veracruz trying to get caught up with my website pictures. I'll have about 3 pages from Puebla, and another couple of pages from the State of Veracruz [Cordoba, Veracruz, Papatla, El Tajin, etc].
Here's the first batch of Puebla Photos: Puebla 1
December 10, Cordoba, Mexico
Cordoba, Veracruz, Mexico, is about halfway between Puebla and the City of Veracruz, has about 200,000 people, and is about 3,400' above sea level. I've only been here for a couple of hours but I really like it. The zocolo is great and the people are welcoming. The Mexican Red-Cross was re-enacting a drunk driving accident in the zocolo and had several ambulances, a crew of about 30 people, jaws of life, and everything else, with a narrator was describing everything.
The mountain pass between Puebla and here reaches about 8,600' above sea level and at the toll booth, which is at the high-point, they said I had just missed a snow flurry. It was still cold and a little damp but I got no snow, which is good but it reminds me of a little lesson I've learned: Altitude trumps Latitude. Generally, as everyone knows, the further south you go the warmer it gets. Then you pass the equator and that trend reverses. But altitude seems to be a much stronger variable than latitude. Lots of gringos by coats in Mexico because they don't tend to bring coats to Mexico, then they go to Mexico City or somewhere else that's 1-2 miles above sea level and need to buy a coat. High altitudes get cold weather you're in Denver or Mexico. If you're at sea level anywhere in Mexico you probably won't need a coat.
That was my only constructive thought for the day so I thought I'd share it - and I know I used the wrong 'weather', I was trying to be punny; I don't think it worked. If you come to Cordoba, the one in Veracruz, eat at "Cafe Tio Manolo" and get the meal of the day - whatever it is that day I'm sure it'll be good, this place rocks!
Later, December 9, Last batch of Mexico City Photo's: Mercado Merced
December 9, third batch of Mexico City Photo's: Teotihuacan
Later, December 8, Second batch of Mexico City Photo's
December 8, Puebla, Mexico, Photos from Mexico City 1 of 4
This first group of photos includes scenes from a bullfight event, but no bullfight pictures. It wasn't worth duplicating a lesser version of what I saw in Tlaxcala. Also, photos from the zocolo of Mexico DL and from the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, with the 'peekaboo Angel'.
December 5, Puebla, Mexico.
I returned to Puebla on Sunday afternoon to catch up on bike maintenance, laundry and web photos. No new cop stories but lots of cold rain. I would have preferred another encounter with Mexico's finest instead of the rain, but only if I knew that such encounter would end as cordially as the first. I brought one roll of tape with me to use for rolling up my rain gear and taping it into compact little rolls. I thought one roll of tape would be more than enough to get me through the trip but it's almost gone. That's a lot of rain between Seattle and Puebla but I'm glad to say the rain gear really does work well.
My motorcycle is leaking oil. I've spent the last day and a half working on it and the details are endless so I won't include them all. I needed to find closed-ended wrenches and sockets because the open-ended wrenches that came with the bike were stripping the bolts. I guess I assumed too much when I thought the wrenches that came with the bike would actually work for the bike. Also, I used synthetic oil, which is known for leaking, so I'm switching back to standard Castrol 10W 40. Most of my time was spent finding the new tools, oil, filter, and the places that sold these things. This included about 7 different locations, 2-5 times per location to stop and ask for new directions that didn't consist of someone pointing and saying "derecho", lots of discussions about what I needed and where I could find it, and much more time spent in traffic.
Puebla gridlock. I mentioned about 6 weeks ago that I thought the drivers in Mexico are, for the most part, skilled and quick. That still pertains, but only when traffic is moving. In New York City you get a ticket if you get stuck in the middle of an intersection during a red light. That cuts down on people blocking intersections. In Puebla every driver seems to believe they are the most important one in the world and they need to be 10 feet closer to home even if it keeps 50 cars from getting through the light. If the street in front of them is blocked and full of traffic they still continue on through the light, blocking the intersection, so that cars on the street perpendicular to them get to sit through many green lights staring at the side of another car blocking the intersection.
And it's not only intersections - they'll actually double-park on a busy street during rush hour, blocking a whole lane of traffic, and just sit and wait for someone or something they're picking up. The cavalier expression of the intersection or lane blocker makes me want to get off my motorcycle, climb onto their car and shit on their windshield, just like a bird but far less graceful. A car can spend 30 minutes going 1-2 blocks and when they finally pass the blocked intersection the road is completely open and free. It's easier on a motorcycle but still frustrating. If Puebla started the NYC ticketing rule there would be no traffic problems at all. I better go talk to the mayor.
December 2, Mexico City.
My original plan to be in Mexico City for four days has turned into a week. I spent several days sort of half sick and didn't get to do much. But yesterday I felt like a local - I rode to the ancient city of Teotihuacán, 'The place where the gods were created', and didn't get lost once! [anyone who's driven in Mexico City would be amazed, trust me] It's about 50 km Northeast of Mexico City and was built between the 1st and 7th centuries, AD. It was abandoned in 650 AD after it was largely destroyed by a fire.
Mexico City has generally been better than I thought it would be. The smog, however, is just as bad as I thought and there's tons of construction going on which adds lots of dust to the smog; my eyes are usually burning a bit by the end of the day, especially if I spend any time on the motorcycle. I went to a bullfight last Sunday night and was very disappointed. Mexico city has the biggest bullfighting ring in the world and I thought the matadors might live up to my high expectations but the matadors from Tlaxcala were much better and the bulls were more lively and aggressive in Tlaxcala as well; I actually ended up leaving the match early and probably won't bother including any bullfight pictures from that event.
I also saw friendly farmers, from the state of Veracruz, protesting in their underwear (I will be posting those funny pictures). I saw the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the presidential palace, the Cathedral in the zocolo with a 70 foot Christmas tree ornament in front of it, and much more. I'll put pictures up soon...
Below is a link to see Teotihuacán via satellite. After you open the page and see the satellite view you'll need to use the tool to the left of the page to pan down, then click anywhere on the screen and use your computers arrow keys to 'travel' north. The green arrow is at the South end of the 'Avenue of the Dead'. It is about one mile long and runs generally north to south. As you go north you will see the Temple of Quetzalcoatl immediately to the right. Follow the avenue north and you will see the Pyramid of the Sun on the right, and the Pyramid of the Moon at the North end of the avenue. Here it is:
November 26, Mexico City.
I knew it would happen sooner or later, now I finally have a story about a run-in with cops south of the border! On Saturday afternoon I rode from Puebla to Mexico City. I had been getting lazy in Puebla and I need a change of scenery so I’ll be spending four nights in Mexico City [Saturday, November 25 through Wednesday, November 29]. I still have a page or two of pictures to catch up on from Puebla and I’ll try to get those on the website in the next couple of days.
I was descending the peak of the mountain pass between Puebla and Mexico City [the highway’s high point is about 10,500’]. At about 8,300’, 5 or 10 miles from Mexico City, I saw a clearly marked black and white Ford Expedition, Mexican Federal Police vehicle on the side of the road. They saw me and began pursuit, it's not clear exactly why. I was going a bit over the speed limit but other cars were still passing me so I knew it wasn’t a speed trap. After a mile or so they slowly passed me on the left, then simply turned on their lights and began slowing down. I knew I shouldn’t pass them on the right so I just slowed down with them. I was pretty sure they were pulling me over but it wasn’t completely clear yet. They slowed from about 60mph to about 25mph which made it clear they were after me so I started to pull over. A hand from the back right window motioned for me to follow them. We went slowly for another half mile to a wide spot in the road.
I was calm and actually looking forward to the experience of dealing with Mexican Federales. We arrived at a wide spot on the highway and they abruptly pulled off and slammed on the brakes in an area where there was a layer of pea-sized gravel on the pavement. They skidded and so did I. I was very close to losing control but I managed to 'keep the shiny side up' [remain upright]. I’m pretty sure they stopped like that to catch me off guard.
Four Mexican Federales got out of the Expedition immediately after they stopped. By the time I had both feet on the ground, still sitting on my motorcycle and trying to catch my balance, there were two of them on my right and two on my left. One on each side had their semi-automatic pistol pointed somewhere between my face and chest. The other two on each side had their hands on their pistols but they were still in their holsters. The one to my right that wasn’t pointing his pistol in my face began asking me questions about where I was going, how long I was going to be in Mexico, and where are my papers; he was clearly the lead officer.
Their disposition was intense, like they were pulling over an armed criminal but I was pretty sure they were just going through the ‘standard operating procedure’ that all cops use because they have to assume the worst so it didn’t bother me. I started telling the lead officer that I had papers in my back left pocket and sort of non-verbally got permission from the trigger guys as I cautiously reached for my passport and vehicle identification and handed them to the lead officer. He quickly looked through the documents and asked why my vehicle ID sticker wasn’t on the motorcycle. I explained that the vehicle registration office in Nuevo Laredo told me to keep the sticker with my passport because if I put it on the motorcycle windshield it would be exposed and could easily be stolen. He seemed satisfied with my explanation and passed my papers on to his trigger guy.
The four of them passed the papers between themselves, briefly glancing at the documents, as the lead officer kept asking me questions about how long I would be here, etc. The pistols were no longer pointed directly at me but there was always at least one guy with his pistol pointed in my general direction. I explained that I was coming from Puebla and would be in Mexico City for four days. Our discussion became more detailed and I realized that the cards I had printed, explaining my journey from Seattle to Tierra del Fuego, would be perfect here. I told him that my “tarjeta” would explain my purpose better than my bad Spanish and that I had one in my front left pocket [my younger brother wrote the cards for me and he speaks perfect Spanish].
After the necessary non-verbal permission from the trigger guys I got one of my cards from my front left pocket and handed it to the lead officer. He quickly read it and passed it onto the others, who only briefly glanced at it. He then told me to remove my helmet; I hadn’t realized it but everything happened so fast that I never had a chance to remove my helmet! I thanked him and said it was a relief to take off my helmet. He asked me to open my bags so that they could search for drugs. He assured me that it was only a “typical search” and I very quickly agreed to it saying “of course, no problem” and other cooperative, nice-guy things.
I slowly stepped off my motorcycle and opened the back bag, then removed the two side bags and opened them along the side of the highway. At this point my only concern was that they would tear through everything and I would have to spend 20-30 minutes along the side of the highway putting it all back together; but it was immediately apparent that they were not going to waste their time tearing through my things. The lead officer was asking if I was going through Cancun to get marijuana and if I took drugs. I said no. Then he asked if I liked to smoke “matte” in Cancun because it was kind of like marijuana but legal. I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about and politely told him so. The only “matte” I’d heard of was a tea like drink in South America; it’s very popular in Argentina and Chile and the taste is somewhere between green tea and cow manure, and very bitter. I wasn’t going to bring that up because it would’ve sounded like I was correcting him.
By then I was actually getting bored and was wondering if they were going to provide some sort of ‘bribe opening’, like mentioning a fine or something, giving me the opening to ask if I could just pay the fine now so I wouldn’t need to go to court. But this encounter came to a boring and pleasant end as they all began looking at each other like they had better things to do. The lead officer said I could leave and they all shook my hand with “nice to meet you” and “have a nice trip” sort of pleasantries being exchanged.
That’s it. My first run-in with cops south of the border turned out to be nothing more than a pleasant pit-stop on my way into Mexico City. Maybe I could have been more dramatic about the guns being pointed at me or how fast they jumped out of their car and surrounded me but it really just seemed like they were following their basic cop-school training and it wasn’t that alarming. I just played the good cooperative Gringo role and all was well. I hope all my cop interactions between here and Tierra del Fuego go this well…
November 15, Back in Puebla, Mexico.
The somewhat unexpected trip back to Newport Oregon was excellent. Grandpa's funeral was good and everybody had a chance to celebrate his life. It was certainly more of a happy occasion because he had suffered much over the last couple of years, especially in the last several weeks. We are all happy that he's in a better place now.
He died in a very peaceful manner; he just stood up out of bed, even though he could barely stand, removed all of his clothing and got back into bed. A few minutes later he simply stopped breathing. He had lived through many ailments that it made his apparently peaceful last moments here a little surprising. We had feared and almost expected a long painful struggle, even more than he'd already experienced. Here's a link to his obituary if you'd like to see it...
The short visit back home was good to catch up with family and now I need to catch up with this website thing. I'll be adding 2-3 pages in the next several days, including pictures from the Dia de los Muertos celebration on November 2, some Grandpa photo's , and other photo's from around Puebla.
November 5, Puebla, Mexico.
Grandpa passed away last Thursday so I've made plans to head back to Oregon for the funeral. He had been getting progressively worse over the last 2 years and the last several months had been very painful for him. On Thursday afternoon he just laid back, took a deep breath and that was it. He was 99 but called it 100 because at 99 you are in your 100th year of life here on earth, right?? We are all happy that he is in a better place now.
I'll be back there from the 7th to the 14th. There are may more pictures I have to update the site with while I am in Oregon; like those from the "Dia de los Muertos", November 2, also the day that my Grandpa died, a holiday that is compared to Halloween but seems a lot like thanksgiving as well. More on that later.
I've updated the other two photo pages from the bullfights and Pelea de Gallos. Overall the bullfights are something that I would see again but the Pelea de Gallos was a waste of time to me. I won't be going to another. There weren't many pictures from the Pelea de Gallos because they wouldn't let me use a flash. I used it once and there's a funny story about it at the top of the photo page. Here's the links to the other two pages:
Tlaxcala 2 (with a detailed description of the bullfight)
Tlaxcala 3 (with details of Pelea de Gallos)
November 2, Puebla, Mexico.
I've finally had some time to update the website with some pictures from October 28, the opening day of the "Feria Tlaxcala". This event lasts about three weeks and includes a "Pamplonada", or a running of the bulls that attempts to imitate that of Pamplona, Spain, as well as bullfights, parades, concerts, and "Pelea de Gallos", or cock fights. Tlaxcala is about 25 miles north of Puebla.
The first page of pictures includes the Pamplonada, pictures from the parade that followed and the first set of pictures from the "Corrida del Toros", or bullfights. The Pamplonada fell way short of that which occurs in Pamplona, Spain. The bullfight pictures are far more interesting.
Bullfights continue to be controversial for obvious reasons. It's difficult to describe the nature of a bullfight. Some call it a sport and some call it an art form; it's either a little of both or a lot of neither. I don't know of any sport where one side, the bull in this case, almost always loses regardless of its performance. And I can't think of any art form where the lead artist, or matador in this case, faces this much risk of physical harm or death. But you certainly cannot disregard the degree of artistry and athleticism involved in the traditional event of Bullfighting and all that it encompasses.
Other folks use terms like 'murder' and 'cruelty to animals' and have websites begging for the end of bullfighting. I disregard the 'murder' term because the bull is not a person. Cruelty to animals? I guess that depends on your feelings about animals but the overall reality is that Bullfighting is a tradition and a business. People own and breed bulls for bullfights and have the right to do what they wish with their property; tradition provides the venue. My goal here is to provide a complete and accurate depiction of what occurs, you can decide if you like it or not.
October 26, 2006, Puebla, Mexico.
I am still here at the Spanish Institute of Puebla and I haven't had any time to update pictures on the website. I have taken some but will have many more in the near future. This weekend is an event in Tlaxcala called "Pamplona en Tlaxcala" - a running of the bulls like they do in Spain. This is followed by "Corrida del Toros", or bull fights. So sometime next week I should have some pretty interesting pictures from that and some very interesting political posters around Puebla...
October 18, 2006, Puebla, Mexico.
I'm here at the Spanish Institute of Puebla where I'll spend 3-4 weeks trying to learn enough Spanish to help make the rest of the trip more informative. The ride here, from Pachuca, should have taken two hours but took seven due to weather and construction. I should have been here last week to sign up for the program in time but they accepted me in the program anyway. I'll continue to update the website from here - there are plenty of great things to see around Puebla to keep me busy with the camera and website while I learn more Spanish.
So far I've Stayed in Monterrey, Linares, Matehuala, San luis Potosi, Queretaro, Pachuca, and now Puebla. I feel like I raced down here and missed a lot in those great cities but I really really need to learn more Spanish before I continue south! When I'm back again I'll stay longer wherever I decide to go. Pachuca would be my first choice, after Puebla. Maybe the altitude made me euphorically dizzy or something [8,000 + feet above sea level] but it just seemed like a good place to stay for awhile. Its clean streets, rich political history, being one of the first big silver mining centers and a really big clock tower that I included in the pictures, all make it a place that I'd like to see for more than just a quick sleepover.
My impressions so far? Two things: driving, and the way that people look at me. Kids gaze, many adults too and those who speak English and have the confidence to ask; ask. Those are mainly the professional Spanish guys, 30-60 years old. They ask where I'm going, if I'm going alone and why am I doing this. I give them one of my new 'business cards' and they read it and say "buena suerte!" Many of them give me their cell phone numbers and tell me to call if I need anything.
I'm aware of how the 'gazing folks' see me. A grande-sized pale-boy on a motorcycle like they've never seen. It makes me laugh when I wonder what's going on in their heads. I just smile and wave at them. Some smile and wave back, others just continue gazing at the grande pale guy on a funny motorcycle.
Driving is the fun part. From the back of a taxicab it seems that the drivers in Mexico, and Central America for that matter, are crazy and out of control. When you are on a motorcycle you get a very good perspective for those who are actually in control or out of control. For the most part these drivers, in my opinion, are great drivers and in full control; you just have to play the game at their speed.
What's the game? Keep the flow of traffic moving as fast as possible and if you're a hindrance to that objective, go away. The fast ones are just really good at this game; it's the slow ones you need to worry about. They seem to simply aim their vehicle in the general direction of their destination and hope they'll get there. Stay away from them; their driving decisions are completely random and unpredictable. They're not in the game and when you hear lots of horns it's usually their fault.
The good drivers are like the gazers. They're not quite sure of what to make of me, but they definitely notice me. They are willing to give me the benefit of the doubt; when I take the benefit they drop the doubt and let me in the game. As long as I'm not slowing things down everything seems to be okay. The only close calls I've had south of the U.S. border have been from slow drivers.
I haven't had to deal with the police at all yet. One of the professors here at the school was a bit surprised and said that other students who've driven here had been pulled over. If I can make it to Tierra del Fuego with no crooked cop incidents I'll have to change the verbiage on my homepage, but I should also get some kind of an award. We'll see how that one goes.
I've added more pictures from Mexico. They are the second page of pictures in Mexico so I called the link, on the homepage, Mexico 2 because that's just how creative I am. Or you can click here: Mexico 2.
October 13, 2006, Matehuala, Mexico.
Matehuala, also not a tourist stop. A little less clean than Linares but a pretty clean city by Central American standards. I've been in bed most of the time since I arrived on Wed. night. The trip from Linares involved a very long and winding trip through a beautiful but rainy mountain pass. On the map it looked like a short distance but it was a 3 1/2 hour trip West to the main highway, then just a quick 1 hour ride South to Matehuala.
I'm working on making the "Find Doug" part of the homepage a little better with actual Satellite topography of where I am now and where I've been, through some Google Earth type of format. I've saved my GPS tracks from Seattle and will continue through the whole trip. The Google folks have only responded to my questions only with generic 'frequently asked questions' responses. If you have any clues for me, I'm all ears...
More pictures soon...
October 11, 2006, Linares, Mexico.
Linares? Not a tourist stop. The only thing my guide book said about it was it is a "rapidly growing community." I was tired and needed to stop so last night it was home, sort of. It's a nice, clean town of about 70,000 people. Yesterday I hiked around Horse Tail Falls, or Cola de Caballo, and got some good pictures that I'll be posting soon. The falls, located between Monterrey and Linares, are definitely worth the trip.
But the important thing is that I'm somebody in Laredo! They published a story about my trip and they're thinking about re-naming the town after me next. I heard rumors of a huge statue and a monument. So here's the link to the story, check it out... [Motorcycle Rider...]
October 08, 2006, Monterrey, Mexico. Finally.
I finally made it to Mexico today. The border process took about 2 hours and would have been half that if I knew where things were located. There's no easy way to get to the vehicle permit office. You have to drive through this little neighborhood to a big boulevard and make a u-turn and head back under the bridge. That's easy enough to understand after you've been there but when you hear four variations from four different people you can't really understand it's difficult to find . I really need to get into a language school soon.
More butterfly butter today but not as bad as the day to Laredo. There were kids cleaning windshields for cash at a rest stop and I had one clean the butter from my side bags so they wouldn't carry that smell in my hotel room again (my room at the SpringHill Marriott smelled that way throughout my five day stay and I fear I'll never forget that horrible stench).
On Friday morning I had about a 90 minute interview with some guy from the Laredo times. He said a photographer would call me before I left on Sunday to set up a photo op on the way out of town. I never got a call. Maybe they read my Friday the 104th story and decided to keep Laredo safe from that kind of nonsense. Or maybe they knew I'd become a legendary overnight icon and got jealous; yeah, that's probably it.
There's supposed to be a cool waterfall near here on the road toward Puebla. I'll either go that way tomorrow or decide that Monterrey is worth another day. Now let's see if I can update this website from Mexico...
Okay, it looks like I can update it but the 'Google Maps' thing only works in the USA. For now when you click on the 'Find Doug' icon you'll just get a weather report of where I am. I'm still trying to figure out a simple way to link Google Earth to my website, with a connection to my GPS tracks.
October 05, 2006, Laredo TX. "Open", a coffee shop with wireless internet...
I just spent the last four days in Laredo TX. The last two and a half days were spent on the phone with people from iPowerWeb, my Internet Service Provider (ISP), and Microsoft FrontPage, trying to determine why I could not update my website. I could view it, but could not access the server to update the greatest website in the world.
Microsoft blamed iPowerWeb and visa versa. Each round took several hours of either being on hold or trying to get to the right person. I told both parties that I wanted to kidnap them, put them in a little box and withhold food and water 'till they fixed my simple problem. I think they knew I was kidding, mostly, but the Microsoft guy volunteered to host a conference call. He even agreed to call the iPowerWeb folks and call me back when he connected to the right techie guy - which can take a long time.
I won't bother with the many details but it became clear that the ISP side was working so we let him go. The Microsoft guy and I tried tons of other things, including re-installing Microsoft FrontPage, to no avail. He had suggested that it could be an issue with the internet service at the hotel [SpringHill Suites, Marriott]. Perhaps it has some sort of firewall that prevents certain functions. I told him that made no sense because the hotel internet connection had worked perfectly with everything else. So we tried more things and I got more frustrated.
Now I'm at "Open", a local Laredo coffee shop with wireless internet, updating the greatest website in the world with a really boring story about hotel internet connections. Sometimes they work great when accessing your favorite websites but prevent certain functions, like updating a website. Accessing the web, or 'read' mode, is very different than updating a website, or 'write' mode. This hotel prevents the latter. It took me two and a half frustrating days to learn that lesson. You just learned it in less than five minutes. You're welcome.
September 30, 2006, Austin TX. Carrabba's Italian Grill
30 day's has September, yada yada whatever. That rhyme is rendered useless by the ability to easily rhyme the wrong months - "30 days has September, March, July, and December." Eh?? No they don't, dumbass! But the rhyme works, at least in part, one day out of every year; today. The other 364 days of the year you use the knuckle counting thing. My mom will show you if you don't know it, it's 100 times better than that stupid rhyme.
Today I rode through Waco, Texas. Unless you had a previous affiliation with that place you only think of one thing when you hear it; David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. I'm a little slow on some things but one thing struck me today, 12-15 years after that fiery day. David Koresh, the Branch Davidians?? What a pompous ass. He just named the whole damn tribe after his first name. To his credit, it sounds better than: "I'm the chosen one - give me your money and let me have sex with your wives; hey, what's that burning smell?"
So how about The Branch Dougians; that'll go nowhere. But my dad's name is Waldemar and who wouldn't want to be a Branch Waldemarian?? That would look cool on a t-shirt and his only requirement would be to learn Flight Simulator and try to land at all the airports that I've ridden by on my motorcycle. That's easier than giving up your wives and money. Okay, it's easier than giving up your money.
Those are helmet thoughts. It's 95 degrees, I'm wearing a black helmet and I'm needing to pull over for a water break. After re-hydrating I reflect on some other Waco thoughts. Some folks use Waco and Ruby Ridge as examples of how the FBI and Federal Gov. are clearly out to get us and that's why we need to arm ourselves against a potential onslaught of government bad guys. Look - I agree with the right to keep and bear arms but use better examples, okay? I can only remember two recent situations where US citizens tried to out-gun the US government. Waco and Ruby Ridge.
There's a mountain of evidence that the Fed's made many bad decisions at Waco and tried to cover up those bad decisions by worse ones and many people died as a result. I'm less familiar with the whole Ruby Ridge thing but I hear it was similar in some ways. But the Feds don't always screw it all up and as far as I can tell they're not out to get us.
What about Elian Gonzalez. We were in for a huge mess when we let 'Little Havana', Miami Florida, keep that kid for more than a couple of days. Eventually the ATF, the Feds, went in after the kid. They took little Elian Gonzalez in the middle of the night. The media focused on a single picture of an ATF agent appearing to point a gun at little Elian. What's my point? The ATF went into an extremely volatile situation in 'Little Havana' to send Elian back to Cuba [we could debate the merits of returning Elian to Cuba for hours but it was the right thing to do. It should have been done immediately when it was clear his father wanted him back, then we would've avoided that potentially deadly situation].
They did it without a single injury or shot being fired. 'Mission Accomplished', for real this time. So maybe we could admit that the Fed's did a good job on that project? And I'm only talking about the single action of safely extracting little Elian, not the whole situation which was run so poorly that it was a bit of a miracle that it concluded without violence. Everything but the extraction of little Elian was a complete and total train wreck . But imagine how much worse that situation would have been if people were killed or even injured during that extraction; it would be seen by many as another Waco or Ruby Ridge.
I'm not an anti or pro Fed guy, I just like to see the whole picture and try to remain objective. That's all I've got to say 'bout that. Tomorrow I'm off to Laredo, Texas.
September 29, 2006, Dallas TX
It's Friday morning in Dallas. I got here last night and it looks like I'll stay tonight. My back tire is bald as hell so I'll have that replaced and have someone help me check the bike over before I head into Mexico. I'll print out some 'business' cards, in Spanish, to help butter up the border guards and make them feel like they're helping [I'll let you know how this works...]. My website disappeared last night and I need to figure out why, and there's admin details I need to work on before the weekend, like health insurance details.
September 26, 2006, Topeka KS
I spent the weekend with Pete and Jeanne T. Up to then the weather had been very cold and often rainy but now it's sunny. I can ride without my helmet in KS so I tried it today, around town, just to give my hair that 1984 'feathered' look that chicks dig. I decided to stay another day in Topeka to finally put some new photo's on the website. They were taken from Newport OR through Lincoln NE and should be on the site by tomorrow (Wed.) morning.
I haven't spent as much time on the website as I wanted because for the last 2 weeks I've either been catching up with my friends and playing with their children or recovering from very icy cold and wet days on the motorcycle. On Sunday I'll be crossing into Mexico. I'll be making updates more frequently from there...
The public service announcement [below] got some responses. Some were worried that I've gone postal! The ironic part is that all the drivers around me really were great the day I wrote it. It was cold and wet but people were considerate, moving to the side when I passed them and generally being careful. It just made me think of the opposite - the really bad drivers you see sometimes. And the therapeutic idea made me laugh, even if it was a sadistic sort of laugh! In general I find that most drivers are considerate of motorcycles. It's just safe to assume that none of them are so when they do something stupid it's no surprise.
That's it for now. See ya!
September 22, 2006, Public Service Announcement/Request:
All of this bad weather motorcycle traveling has become a boil on the butt of my emotions. The drivers on the road around me have actually been quite considerate and careful, which is especially important in this weather. But I sometimes think by contrast and in my foul mood the contrast was between the good drivers around me today, and my many recollections of another type of driver - one in need of a very distinct form of therapy which I describe below in this public service announcement...
A little request from me to you. Who are ‘you’? ‘You’ have issues with another vehicle passing you on the road. Not just a motorcycle, it’s not all about me, but any motor vehicle. ‘You’ are the one who drives very slowly around corners and other areas where nobody can pass, then you speed up like a drunken teenager at the flat stretches where passing would otherwise be possible for those of us following your sorry ass.
‘You’ don’t like to be passed, that’s obvious - but why? The possibilities are endless but usually it’s directly related to some degree of inferiority complex; you are simply unhappy with yourself. For many years now you have found daily reminders of how unhappy you are with the person you’ve become and that is what created the unbearable strife that drove the wretched development process which formed the driving loser called you. I won't waste our precious time hashing out the other potential causal factors right now because regardless of the cause, the road to recovery begins the same way. I want to help you and I’ve thought long and hard about a very distinct form of therapy that will help us both. Beginning this therapeutic intervention will seem a bit drastic but you'll just have to trust me - I've got a Masters degree in Psychology. The wisdom I'm about to impart to you will become crystal clear during your recovery from the first step...
To start, go to your kitchen stove and turn one of the burners up to its highest level. Wait ‘till it’s glowing. Is it glowing yet? Okay. Now I’d like you to stick out your tongue out as far as you can – like a Gene Simmons impersonator. Now you need to press that tongue on the burner, but wait - your immediate instinct will be to pull away from the burning heat; you need to fight that urge and hold your tongue, your lips, the tip of your nose and maybe even a little bit of cheek to the searing heat for a couple of seconds. If you need a hand with this step call me, I’ll be glad to help.
That was the most difficult part of this therapeutic intervention and I'm glad we got it out of the way first; the rest is comparatively easy but will still be a challenge for someone with your under-developed psychological bearing on life. For the next 6-8 weeks you’ll be eating blended food through a tube because your regular eating style will be too painful during this initial recovery stage. This is where true recovery begins. You will have plenty of time on your hands because your branded burner face will probably prevent you from attending work or other social events. Yes, this is the time for true reflective introspection.
Think of a time when you were driving and a vehicle was behind you. Were they behind you for a long time or did they just show up? Let’s do some math. If you are driving and nobody is behind you, then later you realize that someone is behind you, it's a mathematical certainty that they are, or were, traveling at a greater pace than you. They’d likely continue at a greater pace than you but you are in the way. Now you arrive at a possible passing zone; you floor it. Why? Now it’s time to suck down that blended cheeseburger, slowly, and contemplate what aggravates that inferiority complex when others try to pass you. Let's contemplate some possibilities together...
I have friends with horses and anyone with horses knows that horses function at the emotional level of a six year old kid (human, not goat). They get jealous, competitive and generally strive for approval just like a six year old. If a horse is being passed by another horse they’ll try to prevent it by speeding up - this provides a very lucrative industry in the South-Central US, but it's a real pain in the ass on the highways of the world. Is this you, "Sea Biscuit", an emotionally deficient child with a drivers license who tries to keep others from passing just to appease your six year old ego??
Maybe it’s more than that. Perhaps you felt inadequate as a child trying to play competitive field sports. Other kids ran faster than you and now can beat them by strategically pacing yourself in a way that will always give you the lead on the highway. Is that you?? If it is, you simply need to admit it to yourself and realize the true cowardice of trying to feed your fragile, empty little nugget of self-esteem with the false notion of being a winner simply because you are number one in a long line of vehicles on the highway.
Or maybe you’re just an asshole. Maybe you know that others want to pass but you just can’t let them because that’s against your asshole nature. There are books written on folks like you and you can find them in the self-help section at Barnes and Noble. Don’t worry, they’ll help you find the right book - even with your burner branded face. Just refer them to my website [www.dougsmotorcyclediary.com] and they’ll understand. You might want to wear a mask to avoid scaring the children.
Maybe your issues are far deeper than the aforementioned. In any case you’ll have at least 6-8 weeks to figure it out, and even longer if you move forward with the physical aspect of your recovery by completing facial reconstructive surgery. Don’t worry; remember you’re on the high road to recovery. Whatever inferiority complex issues have plagued your development as a cordial driver and decent human being will become clear during this final recovery stage. I'm confident that you will find happiness now and you'll be easier to get along with on the road. I’m glad I could help - it always warms me up inside to know that I'm helping others. Let me know if you have any questions.
And I almost forgot - to all you other drivers out there, like the ones traveling with me today on the very cold, wet highways of Wyoming; you rock!
September 20, 2006 Jackson Hole, WY
This morning I'm in Jackson Hole, WY. The last couple of days were a whirlwind tour of Yellowstone park and the Grand Tetons. The altitude was much more than I thought - I've spent most of the last two days about 8,000' above sea level. But I did get to see a bear and her two cubs, tons of buffalo, elk and a coyote. I missed the 'Old Faithful' eruption by about two minutes and didn't want to wait around for 92 minutes to see the next one. Here's a link to the 'Old Faithful Web-Cam' if you'd like to see what it's doing right now. It's raining there this morning - the same rain and cold front that has plagued me for the last week. Sometimes I'm just ahead of it but usually I'm in the middle. Today I'm going to Riverton, WY, because it seems to be the best direction to avoid more cold biking. I'll try to add another page of pics in the next day or two.
That's it for now, stay warm!!
September 17, 2006
Yesterdays trip from Missoula to Butte was the toughest travel day so far; 130 miles in 35-39 degree weather and rain through the coldest parts. Snow was on the edge of the road in some parts. This is the type of stuff you see on a ski trip, not a motorcycle ride! I went straight to the Best Western and jumped in the hot-tub. A hot-tub has never felt better.
Weather forecasts for the next week are much better. I don't think I'll see conditions as bad as yesterday 'till I get to the Andes. The highest point I'll cross in the US will only be around 7,000 feet. In the Andes I'll be well above 10,000 feet for extended periods of time. Cold at that altitude is far worse.
Monday and Tuesday will be spent in Yellowstone National Park [here's a cool map] and Grand Teton Nat'l Park. Then I'll head East through the Wind River Indian Reservation and continue East to Lincoln Nebraska. Sometime between here and Lincoln I'll make another photo page.
Dad continues to do a virtual flyover and landing at all my destinations with his Flight Simulator program. I look forward to hearing about virtual Old Faithful...
September 16, 2006
So here I am at Ken and Jan's place in Missoula, MT. They've got a great place on a wonderful piece of property and I'm tempted to let them adopt me. It's cold and rainy. Tomorrow I leave for Yellowstone and the forecast is low 40's, possibly snow; not very fun on a bike but 'till now I've been fairly lucky with decent weather. I haven't had a chance to add pictures or any significant updates because I've been enjoying time with my friends and their families. It's been a nice trip so far but I'll run out of friends soon and will have more time to spend updating the website. From here I will go through Yellowstone and try to photograph some carnivores without making them angry. There should be some updates in the next couple of days.
After leaving Newport I went to Redmond where I stayed with Roger and Melissa. I kicked Rogers ass in pinball and don't let him tell you any different. The stay was accentuated with beer and some of the better South Park episodes he'd saved. From there I went to Bend for a night of recovery, then to The Dalles. I tried to rename it The DeBen's but they wouldn't let me.
Next I visited Eric and Heather M. in Richland, WA. Eric and Heather have three beautiful girls. The youngest is a 'terrible two' and a force of nature but I'm confident they'll coach her toward future tax-paying productivity. Then it was off to Athol Idaho - yeah that's really what it's called. Chris and Angela live there with their two kids, Jonathan and Michael. Jonathan will ride circles around you on his Honda 50cc and Michael generally poos and smiles.
The 'Tomorrow' I mentioned above is now this morning (Saturday, Sept. 16). Now I'm getting ready to leave Ken and Jan's place in Missoula. They've warmed me up with some oatmeal. It's raining and in the low 40's. There better be some good soup places between here and Yellowstone. Tonight I'll be staying in Butte or Bozeman, depending on how cold I am...