New Adventure

Dear Friends,

If you’re reading this, then you already know… I’m pregnant planning a motorcycle journey! This fall I’ll be leaving New Hampshire, USA on my Kawasaki KLR650 and riding down to the southern most city in the world – Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego) Argentina. 

In a few short weeks, I’ll take a career break from a 3+ year tenure at Jetboil then immediately jump into Naults motorcycle shop to gain some last minute experience wrenching on bikes. Then it’s off to a few weddings and rock climbing with friends in San Francisco, Vancouver, Salt Lake City, Missoula, and Denver before coming back to NH to put the final touches on the trip preparation. Finally in late October I’ll be hitting the road!

Once on the road, it will be a leisurely ride through the backroads of the USA, camping along the way. In precisely an undetermined amount of time I’ll make my way into Mexico and continue to slowly head south exploring the small towns along the way until late December when I meet up with my good friend Charles.

  • Charles and I were both members of Theta Xi Fraternity at the University of Colorado. He has a long history of motorcycle racing and is finishing up law school.

Charles and I will then head south with a meticulously vaguely planned route through Central America. We’ll then either fly or sail around the Darien Gap and continue the ride in Colombia where we’ll make our way down the west coast of South America.  Sometime in early April we’ll arrive at the southern tip of South America. Then it’s a quick 2000 mile windy ride up to Buenos Aires. We’ll either sell our bikes or pack them into a container and ship them back to the States before catching a plane home.

That’s about it… Pretty simply right? I’ll be using this blog to send out updates. If you’re interested in following along, you can subscribe to this blog by clicking here and receive an email each time a new post is published.

Here’s what the route looks like and here’s an interactive map where all of you can add points of interest.

Also, check out the FAQs page for more behind the scenes details on the trip.

It’s going to be a wild ride. I hope all of you will follow along as your support means so much to me.

-Ben

Categories: General | Tags: | 6 Comments

Patiently Excited

Ryan

Hey everyone,

It’s been a month since my initial post. Hectic and educational best describe the past few weeks. I thought I’d fill ya’ll in on what’s been going on:

I’ve been working part time at Jetboil wrapping up projects and preparing for a smooth transition. On the off days, I’ve been wrenching at Naults Suzuki. The guys at Naults have been super helpful and patient putting up with my thousands of questions. We’ve been doing everything from simple carburetor cleanings to complete engine rebuilds and everything in between such as changing tires, adjusting chain tension, installing brake pads, oil changes, and checking valve clearance. I even had the opportunity to hotwire a bike’s ignition. You never know when that could come in handy… It’s been great to work beside talented mechanics and observe their problem solving approach. Thanks Kevin, Paul, Shawn, Mike, and Herb!

After putting the word out about my trip, many folks have generously offered to donate gear. Thanks to Jetboil for the brand spankin’ new PCS Flash. Thanks to Lonely Planet for the wealth of reading material! The country specific books have been very helpful for planning. Although I won’t be able to take this library of books with me, I will carry along Central & South America on a Shoestring and the handy Spanish phrase book. Thanks to Clif Bar for the 15 boxes of bars! After devouring “product testing” numerous bars, I’ve found a few that I’ll take with me as emergency rations. Thanks to Burt’s Bees for the sunscreen, insect repellent, lip balm, and all-in-one wash! Thanks to NEMO for the prototype tent! Pictures will come soon, but let me tell you, this is one slick tent. Thanks to BMW and KTM for their generous offers of a brand new adventure touring motorcycle but I think i’ll stick with my KLR, El Burro. OK, so maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch…

I also have to give a big thanks to the folks at ADVrider and Horizons Unlimited. Thanks for all your advice and support. A special thanks goes out to Dave G. who did a similar ride last year (Texas to TDF). If you’re interested in going back to the future to see what’s in store for my ride, check out his blog www.AllTheWaySouth.com. Thanks for all the advice from your first hand experience!

I’ve picked up an international drivers license on the black market from AAA, opened up a second bank account (incase I have a problem with one), scanned all of my important documents (for when they are lost/stolen), and photoshopped the the expiration date on my registration (I tried to renew before I depart but apparently it’s too early for that). My arms were turned into pin cushions as I received immunizations for Rabies, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever, and Tetanus. I purchased a slew of malaria pills and have just about had it reading the fine prints of insurance plans. It’s amazing how many will not cover riding a motorcycle… But I’ve found a plan and am hoping that I never have to cash it in.

In a few days I’m flying out to visit with friends, go rock climbing, and attend weddings around the States. I’ll be back in early October to put on the final touches and then head out on the road!

Categories: General | Tags: | 1 Comment

My Summer Vacation

Wow… What a month this has been! Let me try to fill ya’ll in on the fun that’s been had in these past few weeks.

First, I flew to San Francisco for a bachelor party for my good friend Jamie. Our crew had a blast. We rented scooters and terrorized the city and took the ferry over to Alcatraz Island. Here’s a few pictures of the mischief…

Our scooter gang parked for lunch.

Our scooter gang parked for lunch.

Rolling down Lombard St.

Rolling down Lombard St.

Tree Hugging in the Muir Valley Redwood Forest

Tree Hugging in the Muir Valley Redwood Forest

Locked up in Alcatraz... All the tourists were listening to headphone-audio tours and video taping. It was very quiet inside the prison. We decided instead to make our own tour and made up tales about the little known facts of Alcatraz. However, no one could hear us, but they will when they watch their video tape at home...

Locked up in Alcatraz... All the tourists were listening to headphone-audio tours and video taping. It was very quiet inside the prison. We decided instead to make our own tour and made up tales about the little known facts of Alcatraz. However, no one could hear us, but they will when they watch their video tape at home...

Next it was off to Squamish, British Columbia to meet up with my friend Jim and our Kiwi buddy Dave (in January 2005, the three of us traveled all around the South Island of New Zealand doing lots of climbing and tramping). Dave’s been living in Squamish all season and was an excellent host as he showed us all the best climbs and local hideouts. We even became sponsored athlete-models for Stormtech! Enjoy a few pictures from our days north of the border…

Dave working the traverse pitch on the Grand Wall.

Dave working the traverse pitch on the Grand Wall.

Jim climbing the best pitch of his life, the Split Pillar, 4 pitches up the Grand Wall.

Jim climbing the best pitch of his life, the Split Pillar. 4 pitches up the Grand Wall with only 8 more pitches to go.

Dave showing us the fine art of dumpster diving. We scored big. Heaps of vegetables, cookies, sandwiches, and bread.

On the way to the crag one morning, we were approached by some guys to be climbing models for their clothing company. The set us up with some free gear and $150 each! We rigged up their photographer to take pictures of Dave.

One morning on route to the crag we were approached by some guys looking for climbing models for their clothing company's photography shoot. They set us up with free gear and $150 each! We rigged up the photographer to take pictures of Dave climbing Excaliber.

Me working the route.

Me working the route.

After a solid week of climbing in Canada I dropped over to Missoula, Montana to catch up with yet another good friend, Mike. He’s a NYC guy who ditched the city life to enjoy Big Sky country. We had a great time catching up and doing lots of rock climbing and frisbee golfing. You know, you should see some of the pictures…

While enjoying a nice day of climbing, these fire rangers come by to usher us out of the canyon because a wild fire was rolling down.

While enjoying a nice day of climbing, these forest rangers come by to usher us out of the canyon because a wild fire was rolling down.

The tiny smoke cloud in the distance turned into a raging firestorm through the canyon.

The tiny smoke cloud in the distance turned into a raging firestorm through the canyon.

I assisted Mike with a family portrait photoshoot for some of his clients.

I assisted Mike with a family portrait photoshoot for some of his clients.

We practiced our juggling.

We practiced our juggling.

Disc Golfing

Disc Golfing

Now with a little taste of travel it was off to Utah to visit with my friend and former Jetboilian, David and his wife Haley. David and Haley were my climbing partners back in NH. In typical Utah style, the weather was absolutely wonderful and I got the grand tour of the Beehive state. We started the trip off with a canyoneering adventure in Zion National Park. We then did some spectacular basalt climbing outside St. George, toured Bryce Canyon National Park, and had a few more days climbing at Brian’s Head and Rock Canyon. Thanks, Haley, for purchasing Bahhhhbara III (a.k.a. Dirty Jo). Plenty of good photos to share…

Long story short, this is my third inflatable sheep... Here we are walking to the climbs in Rock Canyon, Provo, Utah.

Long story short, this is my third inflatable sheep... Here we are walking to the climbs in Rock Canyon, Provo, Utah.

David narrowly escaping all the bird poop holds while climbing at 9,000 ft in southern Utah.

David narrowly escaping all the bird poop holds while climbing at 9,000 ft in southern Utah.

David and I wielding our cougar clubs. We climbed at a crag called Running Scared which was named by a climber who was stalked there by a mountain lion. We also determined that we didnt have to out run the cougar, we just had to out run Haley...

David and I wielding our cougar clubs. We climbed at a crag called "Running Scared" which was named by a climber who was stalked there by a mountain lion. We also determined that we didn't have to out run the cougar, we just had to out run Haley...

Enjoying sunset at Bryce Canyon National Park overlooking all the Hoodoos.

Enjoying sunset at Bryce Canyon National Park overlooking all the Hoodoos.

Camping at Bryce in the super rad air beam tent from the folks at NEMO.

Camping at Bryce in the super-rad air beam tent supplied the folks at NEMO.

Me climbing some on some sweet basalt outside St. George, Utah.

Me climbing some on some sweet basalt outside St. George, Utah.

Haley climbing within the beautiful foliage.
Rappelling down the Pine Creek slot canyon in Zion National Park.

Rappelling down the Pine Creek slot canyon in Zion National Park.

Walking through the slot canyon. Surface temps were in the 90s. Temps in the slot canyon were in the 60s. The stagnant pools which we swam through were in the 50s.

Walking through the slot canyon. Surface temps were in the 90's. Temps in the slot canyon were in the 60's. The stagnant pools which we swam through were in the 50's.

OK, so now it’s off to the last stop, Boulder, Colorado for Jamie and Laura’s wedding and to see all my college friends. The wedding was held in the amphitheater atop Flagstaff Mountain overlooking Boulder. Absolutely beautiful! It was a wonderful ceremony and reception. I’m so happy for you two! When in Boulder I also had a chance to meet up with my riding partner, Charles, and try out his new KTM 640. FUN! After we discussed some of the finer details about the trip it started to set in… I’m riding my motorcycle 20,000 miles to the bottom of South America! YIKES! Charles has another 2 months of school left before he meets up with me – See you soon buddy! Take a look at a few Colorado photographs…

Jamie treated all the groomsmen to straight shaves. Aside from the bloody necks, pulling of each hair and missed spots, it was a great experience.

Jamie treated all the groomsmen to straight razor shaves. Aside from the bloody necks, pulling of each hair and missed spots, it was a great experience.

My friend Foxs motorcycle jacket - 667 Neighbors of the beast.

My friend Fox's motorcycle jacket - 667 Neighbors of the beast.

Hiking in my old backyard, the Flatirons in Boulder.

Hiking in my old backyard, the Flatirons in Boulder.

Jamie and Lauras wedding

Jamie and Laura's wedding

My riding partner, Charles and his KTM 640 Adventure.

My riding partner, Charles and his KTM 640 Adventure.

What a fun month this has been, and to think, the fun has just begun. I’m now back home in New Hampshire and have begun to put the final touches on the trip preparation. My goal is to depart next Wednesday, October 14, in time to make it to Jamie and Laura’s 2nd wedding reception in Maryland. Lots to do still and the clock is ticking.

Stay tuned. More to come shortly 🙂

Categories: United States | 1 Comment

Quick Update – Florida

Lots of long days on the road. I’ll post some pictures and stories soon. Until then, I’m stealing WiFi outside a McDonalds in Florida.

Categories: United States | 3 Comments

Another Quick Update – New Orleans

After riding down to Key West I made my way back north and am headed west. I’m spending the Haloween weekend in New Orleans with friends. I promise some pictures and stories once life slows down a bit in Mexico.

Categories: United States | 3 Comments

The Final Touches

OK, how about some updates! Upon returning to NH I had one week to put the final touches on the trip prep and hit the road. Here’s some of the action:

Micatech Install & Jetboil Farewell (10)

The folks up at Micatech set me up with some most excellent luggage. Thanks very much to Bob, Sue, and the rest of the gang.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Micatech Install & Jetboil Farewell

Up on the lift at Naults to install new brake pads, cush drive, chain, and sprockets along with an oil change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Micatech Install & Jetboil Farewell (3)

Thanks to TJ at Erwin Precision for the last minute fabrication. For some reason my kickstand leans the bike too far, so TJ made a little “lifter” and welded it on.

 

 

 

 

 

Micatech Install & Jetboil Farewell (5)

A very nice send off from all the folks at Jetboil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like the new banner at the top of the page? NH Photographer, Sid Ceaser, is the king of portable portraits. Sid offered to take some pictures of me and the bike before I left. If the bike makes it back to the States, Sid will also take a “post-trip” portrait series.

Portrait 1

Portrait 2

Portrait 3

Portrait 4

Portrait 5

Portrait 6

And the adventure begins. Stay tuned…

Categories: United States | 5 Comments

The United States

Day 1: On the road! I cruised through New Hampshire and Massachusetts on route to Rhode Island where I stopped over at Twisted Throttle to pick up a some mounting hardware for the GPS. That night I camped out at a campground that happened to the closed for the season but the nice folks let me tent for free.

Day 2: The fun begins… It’s 40° and raining. Twisting my head side-to-side every 5 minutes allows the visor to be cleared of the rain. In the afternoon the rain picks up and it’s getting difficult to see the road. Small patches of visibility are available from time to time and I’m trying to stay between the lines. I make the executive decision that it’s time to call it quits for the day and I’m not to interested in finding a place to camp in the pouring rain. A motel straight out of a horror movie in the middle of nowhere has a cheap rate and I crash for the night.

Day 3: The rain is still coming down so I swing by a grocery store to pick up some Pledge wipes. Rubbing them on the helmet face shield helps to repel the water and the lemon scent is a bonus. As I hit the road and the temps dropped into the 30’s. Breaking the day into small blocks is the only way to make ground. After 10 miles of riding my fingers are cold. After 20 miles they hurt. At 30 miles I find a place to stop and warm up. After about 7 of these sessions I arrive at my friend Jamie’s house in Maryland.

Day 4: Rest day! It’s Jamie and Laura’s wedding reception and I have a great time hanging out with friends. (Oh and it’s still pouring rain…)

Jamie's Maryland Wedding Reception 012

Day 5: The rain has stopped as I head south to the Shenandoah Mountains in western Virginia. Cruising up Skyline Drive is beautiful. I gain elevation quickly and soon enough it’s snowing! I shared a campsite for the night and the temps dropped into the 20’s.

United States 007United States 010

Day 6: The road is still covered in slush and I get cold quickly. Every so often I stop and jog up and down the road to get warm. However, I make it out of the mountains and head over to Virginia Beach for some warmer weather and to catch up with my friend Jon. He’s still working when I arrive so I figure it’s a good time to install the GPS power cord.

United States 012


Day 7: I follow the coast down to North Carolina’s National Sea Shore. It’s a beautiful ride and my first day without the balaclava under the helmet. Island hopping meant I had to take two ferries. Fortunately, motorcycles get to cut right to the front of the line 🙂

United States 021

Day 8: Working my way down the coast through Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and it’s 80 degrees! I actually get a little sunburn. It’s hard to imagine that two days ago It was 20° and snowing. I also realize that I’ve never camped in alligator country… I decide to stick to the designated camping grounds, and I find a beautiful spot along the Intercoastal Waterway.

South Carolina

Day 9: Passing through southern Georgia I had to dodge a hot tub in the middle of the road – a good test of road conditions to come. Eventually I reach Florida and stay with my Cousin, Matt, in San Fernando Beach.

St. Augustine, Florida (2) Day 10: A biker I met on the ferry recommended that I take highway A1A along Florida’s Atlantic coast. It was a nice cruise and I passed through Daytona Beach and St. Augustine – America’s oldest city where I stopped to check out the Spanish fort, Castillo de San Marcos. I end the day with my Aunt, Uncle, and Nana in Port St. Lucie. A shower, laundry, and delicious dinner are just what I needed.

Day 11: It’s off to the Florida Keys and I can’t stop singing that song… I make it to Key West and to the the southern most point in the continental United States (It counts as continental because we built a dozen bridges from island to island). I share a camping spot at the Bahia Honda State Park and take a dip in the crystal clear water! Ya… this is the life.

Florida Keys (3)Florida Keys (8)

Day 12: Goodbye Florida Keys. Hello Everglades. I head to the national park and do a few short hikes. I haven’t yet seen an alligator and I’m getting anxious. I look everywhere but unfortunately none are to be seen. What’s the deal? I thought these were everywhere? On the way out of the park, I finally get on some dirt roads and I stop by a swamp. Sure enough, I see two alligators! I realized that I don’t know their actions. Will it jump out of the water at me? Will one stare at me and the other come up from behind? Later I find out that they keep to themselves and avoid human contact. Not what I expected from those crazy National Geographic videos. (or was it Jurassic Park?)

Everglades, FloridaEverglades, Florida (13) 

Day 13: Headed up the gulf coast and I’m lucky enough to spend the night at a friend’s place in Cape Coral.

Day 14: Still headed up the coast on state highways and the bike is sputtering. Hmm… The first mechanical challenge of the trip. I make it to camp and clean out the carburetor jets. It seems to do the trick. The Micatech pannier doubles as a great mechanics seat too. I see my first armadillo. Again, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I quickly found out that all they do is makes LOTS of noise rustling around the fallen leaves trying to find grubs to eat. The camp spot is under a bunch of Hazelnut (?) trees. These are HUGE and solid and it’s the time of year they fall from the tree. All night I hear them come crashing down. I narrowly escaped a few encounters – that wouldn’t have felt good to have one land on my head.

Northern Florida (5)Northern Florida 

Day 15: Up to Florida’s pan handle and I get caught in a massive downpour. It’s the most severe rain I’ve hit so far. Fortunately the weather was warm and after about 10 miles of not being able to see past my front tire I come across a general store in the middle of nowhere and ride right under their awning. After some nice conversation with the locals and an hour gone by the rain lets up and I continue west.

Day 16: I rolled through Pensacola, Florida and through Alabama’s southern coast on into Mississippi where I meet up with a fellow ADVrider, Paul, who puts me up for the night, feeds me well, takes me kayaking and on a tour of the Hurricane Katrina damage. Here’s a picture of the lot where his house once stood. The water line can be seen on the trees about 12 feet from the ground. It’s hard to fathom what that would be like

Mississippi 007

Day 17: New Orleans!

Day 18: A rest day in NOLA to hang out with friends and go out for Halloween. I’ve been living on a tight budget (a.k.a. lots of peanut butter sandwiches) so I wasn’t interested in spending money on a Halloween custom. I looked for the only prop I had with me… the inflatable sheep. Here we have Panama Jack, Quail Man, Sheep Fucker, and Twitter. If the city goes this crazy for Halloween, I can only imagine what it’s like at Mardi Gras.

New Orleans (Halloween) 034New Orleans (Halloween) 043

Day 19: Onward to Lake Charles to meet up with another ADVrider, Darrell. After hellos he tells me to take his BMW F800GS for a spin. OK! Darrell and his wife Cher also own a scuba diving shop called True Blue Watersports.

Day 20: Houston, Texas to meet up with yet another ADVrider, Dave, who rode his motorcycle from Texas to Tierra del Fuego last year. It was great to pick his brain for all kinds of information. It’s here that I started to get scared and excited all at once! Dave was even robbed at gunpoint by banditos in Guatemala… But overall he had great things to say about the journey.

Houston Texas (David G.)  (AllTheWaySouth) 003

Day 21: I decided to stay another day in Houston to get some last minute paperwork organized. I made laminated copies of all my important documents. I’ll hand these over to officials and not the originals just incase anyone tries to bribe me to get them back. A run, some frisbee with Dave’s dog, Indy, and delicious Texas BBQ wrapped up the day.

Day 22: Austin, Texas with the hopes of running into Lance Armstrong at his bike shop, Mellow Johnny’s. No lance sightings unfortunately but I did have a chance to meet up with, yup you guessed it, ADVrider Robin and hangout with the local moto crew at the pub downtown.

Austin Texas (Robin Hodson) 002Austin Texas (Robin Hodson) 004

Day 23: The butterflies are everywhere in Texas and several of them met my helmet with a loud SMACK. Eventually I made it down to a state park in Laredo, Texas. Another run in the dry heat felt great and I organized my documents for tomorrow’s border crossing. 4,500 miles have gone by since I left home. Another 16,000 or so still to come 🙂

Texas, Laredo

Day 24: MEXICO!!! I packed up early in order to get through the border quickly. Dave recommended a quiet border crossing about 25 miles north of town. (Headed to Mexico? Here’s the details). I had a nice chat with the lady on the USA side of the border then rode across the bridge to Mexico. Instantly no one spoke English and none of the signs were in English. It was fun trying to talk Spanish to officials to get my passport stamp, tourist visa, and vehicle import permit. No one seemed to be in a rush. At one window there was no one present and no one I asked seemed to know when the official would be back… After 15 minutes the official arrived. Life’s a little slower south of the border… The driving rules changed too. All of a sudden it’s accepted and expected to drive on the shoulder, pass by going into the oncoming traffic’s lane and stop wherever you please. It’s been flat for the last 3,000 miles and finally I got into the mountains! I made a straight 200 mile shot through a few towns and arrived at Hidalgo outside Monterrey at La Posada in El Potrero Chico. I rock climbed here a few years ago and decided that it would be a great place to take a few days off the bike, slow life down, get used to Latin culture, and get organized. So I’m here now and eating delicious tacos. mmmmmm.

El Potrero ChicoHasta luego!

Categories: United States | 6 Comments

Mexico – El Potrero Chico, Monterrey, and Real de Catorce

Awww, Mexico… I spent a few days relaxing and rock climbing in El Potrero Chico. It’s a beautiful place with stunning limestone mountains that attract rock climbers from around the globe to climb the bolted multipitch routes. It felt great to take a few days off the bike and get rejuvenated for some more riding.

I was able to borrow some gear and get some climbing in. I’m in the left photo and if you look closely in the right photo you can see Matt sending in the Virgin Canyon.

El Potrero Chico 017 El Potrero Chico 044

The author of The Whole Enchilada guide book, Dane, showed me to a cobbler in town who was able to sew loops onto my boots. I’ll use these loops to lock up my boots.

El Potrero Chico 054

After dinner all the climbers get a little restless. We had speed rope-coiling contests and an elevated tug of war showdown. Here’s Blake and April getting serious.

El Potrero Chico 008

It was a wonderful few days in the Potrero but I was anxious to hit the road. I left town for a short ride to Monterrey. Mexico’s third largest city.

Potrero Chico Riding 010

I stayed at a hostel in the Barrio Antiguo (old neighborhood). Oddly enough the owner of the hostel had lived in Bedford, NH – what a small world! The only secured parking was a lot down the street. I negotiated from 100 pesos to 50 pesos arguing that my bike was so small. It worked. I walked for miles around the city, had some delicious street tacos, and stumbled into the Northeastern Mexico History Museum (that happened to be free for the month of November). I even went to dinner with a Mexican Lawyer; you never know when that connection could be useful…

Monterrey

The city was nice but I was ready for some new roads and cheaper living. The next morning I set sail for a full day or riding. Heading west through Saltillo and then south I gained altitude quickly. A construction road block halted traffic for nearly an hour. I tried to get permission to go by on my bike but to no avail. It gave me a chance to get some warmer clothes on though as the ride through the altiplano continued.

About 200 miles later that day I reached the road to Real de Catorce. Heading up to this old silver mining town was a challenge as the only road was made from cobble stone over a century ago. It was a bumpy 15 miles long (or 25 kilometers – I’m not really sure how many kilo-joules per fortnight that is though). You can’t fathom just how long 15 miles is when riding this road… Eventually I reached a 2 mile long, one lane tunnel that winds through the mountain to arrive at the town. I didn’t see any ventilation ducts in the 100 year old tunnel though.

Real de Catorce 005

The movie, The Mexican, was filmed in the town. I found a cozy little motel. For 150 pesos I have my own room, bathroom and shower, with an open air courtyard and crazy twisting staircases. The gentle sounds of donkeys, roosters, and barking dogs ease me to sleep.

Real de Catorce 023Real de Catorce 022

Up here at about 9,000 ft it’s a dry mountain environment. When the sun goes down the temps drop quickly and at night it’s VERY cold. There’s lots of little shops that sell trinkets and a beautiful church that was originally constructed in the 18th century.

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In the morning I went to the roof of the hotel to get some sunlight and make breakfast (oatmeal & fruit) in the Jetboil PCS Flash.

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I went for a nice hike up one of the mountains following what used to be “the road into town" before the tunnel was built. It yielded great views of the town from above and an old ghost town up high on the mountain.

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Real de Catorce stitch small 

Here’s an old cock fitting ring/amphitheatre and the plaza de torros (bull fighting ring) that also remain from the mining days.

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It’s been fun here and I’ll be back on the road again…

Categories: Mexico | 9 Comments

San Miguel de Allende & Xilitla

After leaving the quiet mining town of Real de Catorce I passed the Tropic of Cancer and onto San Miguel de Allende. The town boasts about 10,000 expats who come to enjoy the beautiful colonial architecture and year-round mild climate.

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I met two Polish travelers who are hitchhiking around the world and using CouchSurfing to find places to stay along the way. I decided to give it a shot and met up with Michael who is a retired American now living in San Miguel. He has an awesome condo just outside the hustle and bustle of downtown that’s located next to a local market.

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Walking around this beautiful town I was drawn to the plethora of doors. I started a little photography project to find and photograph interesting doors in San Miguel. Here are a few:

San Miguel de Allende 028 San Miguel de Allende 005 San Miguel de Allende 006 San Miguel de Allende 007 San Miguel de Allende 009 San Miguel de Allende 021San Miguel de Allende 010 San Miguel de Allende 012 San Miguel de Allende 016 San Miguel de Allende 026

 

 

 

 

 

By the time I reached San Miguel I had ridden my bike over 5,300 miles! It was time for an oil change. I emailed the owner of Motos y Mas, Alberto. He let me know that they were on holiday but he offered to come in nonetheless. We changed the oil and filter, added a small inline fuel filter (I’ve already had to clean out the jets twice…), fixed the broken turn signal wiring, and tightened the shifter. Alberto also leads group rides for MotoDiscovery and is headed down to Ushuaia in a few months. I mentioned that I had seen numerous KLR’s around San Miguel. It turns out that Alberto imports them. If you’re in San Miguel on a bike, be sure to check in with Alberto.

San Miguel de Allende 039

By the time I left Alberto’s shop it was noon and I had 230 mountainous miles to ride before the next stop, Xilitla (pronounced hey-leet-la). The roads were beautiful; lots of twisties up and down through the mountains. I realized I couldn’t let my guard down after I saw a few folks passing on blind corners…  The dry desert eventually changed to luscious green cloud forest at about 8,000 feet with fog so thick that I could barely see 10 feet in front of the bike. It was spectacular scenery but unfortunately, I only stopped once in the mountains to grab a photo.

Xilitla 002

Before entering Mexico I was given three pieces of advice from friends:

  1. Don’t get stabbed in Barcelona – I think I’ll be ok on this side of the Atlantic.
  2. Buy a nice camera – I bought a Canon G11 to replace the cheap point and shoot.
  3. NEVER ride at night…

I was concerned that my shadow was getting longer and I still had many miles to ride. I kept on, driving perhaps a little too fast through the mountains, passing trucks and buses when the coast was clear. Coming around a corner, without any warning, the road was under construction and the smooth pavement immediately turned to gravel. I struggled to reduce my speed and remain in control as I eased on the brakes. Phew… that woke me up. Shortly there after the sun had dropped behind the mountains and a light rain had started. Finally, I arrived at Xilitla as night set in. I quickly found a hotel to get out of the rain and get some rest.

By the next morning the rain had stopped and I went to visit the the main attraction – Las Pozas (The Pools/Wells). This interesting place was created by the imagination (and wealth) of the surrealist Englishman, Edward James. Although it looks like ancient Mayan ruins, in fact it was built only 5 decades ago. I enjoyed walking around the funky creations (that lack handrails – try that in the US!) where the jungle has begun to take back its land. Although it was very creative, I found it hard to connect to these “ruins” as they aren’t ruins that were constructed by an ancient civilization.

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I’ll be back on the road in the morning for another full days ride. Cheers.

Categories: Mexico | 4 Comments

Mexico – Pachuca, Teotihuacan, Puebla (Cholula)

I left Xilitla on a cloudy day. Actually it’s always cloudy in the cloud forest… I headed south to Pachuca through some of the best scenery of the trip so far. The road twisted and turned up and down the mountain side as I skirted along the rim of the Park Nacional El Chico. The landscape reminded me of New Mexico. However, I wasn’t in New Mexico, I was in regular Mexico. Strange…

With the daylight coming to an end I spent the night in Pachuca – a colorfully painted city. The hotel I stayed in was terrible though. The room had no natural light, it was very dirty, and I think someone/thing may have died in it. I spent some time in the central square people watching. The center is packed with traffic cops blowing their whistles in so many different patterns. This one officer noticed a car had double parked and it pissed him off. Blowing his whistle furiously from afar he had no luck. He went up to the car to find out there was no one inside. He continued blowing his whistle and circling the car for the next 20 minutes. Eventually the owner came out and he whipped out his ticket book in excitement and the woman started crying. Guess you should have thought about that before you double parked… This is way more fun than visiting tourist attractions!

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Early the next morning I set out for ancient city of Teotihuacan. The city was established sometime around 500 B.C. and the pyramids were built sometime around 100 A.D. Here’s the Piramide del Sol (Sun):

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And here’s the Piramide de la Luna (Moon) as seen from the top of the Piramide del Sol:

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Panoramic view of the pyramids

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After walking up and down the Calzada de los Muertos (Avenue of the dead) for more than 3 miles, I departed for the Teotihuacan Trailer Park (lovely name). Oddly enough, it’s a beautiful little grassy sanctuary in a rather uninteresting town just a few miles from the Pyramids. It’s cheap living and I enjoyed the relaxation before continuing south to Puebla.

I stayed at a hostel in Puebla where I met Vera. She and I took a bus to the town of Cholula – the home of the widest pyramid ever built, Piramide Tepanapa. Unfortunately, the pyramid has been so neglected over the centuries that it’s difficult to see that it’s a manmade structure. In fact, when the Spanish arrived, they built a church on top of their “hill” without even realizing it was a pyramid.

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Vera taking a break after walking up the pyramid’s steps. It’s a tough climb at 7,000 ft.

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Isn’t it great to live in the age of science…?

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It’s common in Mexico to have a “roof dog.”

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The next morning I was back on the road for an 8 hour, 270 mile ride to Oaxaca via Highway 190. On my way out of town I had my first run in with the police. A motorcycle cop pulled me over. Immediately I didn’t speak any Spanish 🙂 The only thing he could say in English was “red.” Maybe it’s because I turned right on red or because I went through a yellow light that was turning red. I’m not sure, I just played dumb (and friendly). I could see that he was getting frustrated by not being able to tell me what I did wrong. I flipped the situation and asked for directions by pointing at my map. He came to the rescue with his machismo and showed the way out of town. I made him feel like he saved the day and I didn’t get a ticket or pay a bribe!

Once again, the mountain roads were spectacular. Many of the backpackers I’ve met sleep all day on a bus. I feel fortunate to experience so much more by riding through all the small towns and interacting with the landscape and people. The motorbike is such a beautiful mode of travel!

p.s. I ran over a snake today.

Categories: Mexico | 4 Comments

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