Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (5,699 kilometers – 3,541 miles)
The Conbigotes Varsity team apologizes for the delay in posts (the JV team is slacking as well). As we’ve established previously, we are aware our loyal 3 readers are hanging on the edge of their respective seats…so without further adieu or babel, here goes.
To tell you the truth, I’m not even sure where to start. Sitting down to this rocking laptop (on a sailboat again…seems to be a theme) I’m realizing that just shy of the last two weeks has felt like no less that 7 years rammed into 11 days. The ferry over from La Paz, Baja California Sur to mainland Mexico and Mazatlan was a success other than the price of the marginally chilled cans of Modelo. It was also advantageous that a gang of motorcyclists from Cabo San Lucas took a liking to our story and fed as much tequila to us as they could before we hit shore. Waking up outside on the bolted park bench, of what you could possibly call an observation deck, to raindrops and thunder clouds suggested we were about to hit a significant change in climate. I was sobbing with joy at the sight of tree-lined hillsides until Ryan punched me in the face and told me to get it together. Needing to gather our mainland senses and ready the bikes with rain and lightning protection, we spent the night in Mazatlan soaking up the sights, humidity and 6 peso marlin tacos. The kind folks at Hotel Lerma solved our map finding retardation and gifted us an extensive mainland roadmap, so we were all set to trudge toward Tepic followed by the coastal tourist mecca of Puerto Vallarta.
Mexico 15-D (toll road) to Tepic was a small piece of riding heaven. With little traffic and a shoulder wider than an amazon.com distribution center, the kilometers fell behind us. It felt goddamn fantastic to be on the road again riding through tropical forests compared to Baja’s Hwy 1 desert kiln. We were treated like kings in the incredibly bike friendly town of Escuinapa. The mayor and director of tourism made sure we were very comfortable sleeping in the municipal building courtyard, but the late night painters, tropical thunderstorms and cockroaches didn’t extend the same courtesy.
We celebrated Ryan’s 28th birthday in Ruiz the following night with beers, more tacos than normal and another stay with local authorities under a large, tin roof covering their basketball court. The shelter did nothing, however, in terms of protection as the seemingly constant mid-night hammer-storms rolled through, blowing rain and sleep-related disappointment everywhere. Speaking of sleeping, it certainly isn’t easy to do here in the mainland. It’s usually too damn hot to sleep in the tent (even without a vestibule), but sleeping outside leaves us susceptible to 314 bug bites and storms that would drown us. The deprivation caught up to us the next day with the short, but constant vertical hell climb to Tepic. I wanted to throw myself into a passing 38-wheeler just to stop climbing in the heat, but thankfully Ryan kept us moving as we had to meet the lovely, talented, hospitable, tall, poor parking and adventurous hostess, Crisol (see pictured) in Tepic. She gave us beds, booze and helpful information on how to not be hung off a local bridge as an example of the region’s flourishing narco-gang battle. The highlight of the weekend was the mildly hungover trip to spend the afternoon at Laguna Santa Maria del Oro. A lazy little pseudo-tourist lake where eating, drinking and watching locals sink themselves on kayaks are some of the available festivities.
Needing to shove off towards Puerto Vallarta, we said our goodbyes and headed out on Mexico coastal highway 200. This was absolutely no easy task as the road continued to climb into the jungle and seemed as thin as dental floss. The high elevation rain and fog helped even the score of road crashes at one-a-piece when Ryan couldn’t clip out of his pedals during a fishtail situation. Seeing it from behind, it looked pretty disastrous, but he was able to jump right up and drag the bike off the road before more cars careened around the corner. Stopping for the night to gather ourselves and lick our wounds was the obvious next step. The remaining 100 kilometers to Puerto Vallarta the next day were no better. The traffic on this high-wire of a road was heavier than getting into a Lakers game and tourist buses like to play slalom with each other at 70 mph. This was the only point on the road thus far where I stopped and thought, “this really isn’t the most intelligent thing in the world to do.” Thankfully, we had a 10 kilometer decent and less traffic as we rushed towards the coast and the Vallarta area to meet Pepe and Scott (see pictured) who would be hosting us for a few days. Our luck with Hospitality Club and Warm Showers has been off the charts. Pepe apologized and said they only had couches for us on the sailboat in the middle of the beautiful marina so clearly, we had to make due. We were met by the more than excited boat dog, Buddy, who has an incredible knack for not peeing on the boat and demanding you play with him and his squirrel during all waking hours. The nightly stroll to the bar at “Sticky Fingers” seems to be as common as the evening thunderstorms and we don’t complain until morning for the endless “on the house” shots of local tequila.
Well folks, we may have grazed over the goings-on throughout the last 2 weeks, but we would need a novel to appropriately explain each handful of days out here. The themes here on mainland Mexico seem to be the exact same as Baja, but with significantly more rain. We have been met with too many ridiculous acts of kindness and generosity to begin to recall and/or repay the favors. Nobody wants to hear a goodbye nor does it feel right. My buddy Tom Nichols told me once in Bolivia that saying goodbye to a new friend you have meet on the road is almost an insult. The only thing to be done is a good hug and a “see you when we see you.” We hope that’s true and we can’t wait for the day down the line where we can attempt to repay what has been so unselfishly shared with us. If it’s even possible.