Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Mainland Chronicles

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.

-Conbigotes

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And Now For Something Completely Different…

La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico (3,237 miles)

Just a quick check in here folks to go along with your Monday morning coffee or organic tea and agave sweeteners.  Conbigotes officially unofficially got to the end of the Baja California sojourn yesterday when we reached the final destination here in La Paz, Baja California Sur before our bout with mainland Mexico and rainy season.  A comprehensive Baja wrap-up and dissertation will ensue including mile by mile thoughts, sights, hunger cravings and butt/bike seat sensitivities.

Miss you all.

-Conbigotes

 

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Sailboats, Ex-Pats and Pacifico Clara

Ciudad Constitucion, Baja California Sur, Mexico (3,106 miles)

First of all, we’d like to state that the aformentioned Pacifico Clara is not at all a great beer, but it does on occassion do the trick, and in this case was the catalyst to a phenominal snag in travel plans.  The Conbigotes crew had finally reached the Gulf of California coast (equally named Sea of Cortez the further south we get) and the romantic (we held hands – not really) tourist town of Mulege.  When its 304 degrees and you spend your life on a bicycle, the idea of Baja’s best beaches sounded like a pretty goddamn good idea for a few days.

 So Ryan having a nose for the local playas (beaches) like an airport dog for weed, he sniffed us through the main drag to the outskirts of Mulege to a little plotch of beach that would certainly do the trick to subdue our sunburns for the time being.  We were also treated to the local homeless chick seemingly bathing herself nakedly and watched an older gentleman ex-pat securely lodge his `94 Ford Explorer in the sand which needed nearly 15 locals to get dragged out.  Ken and Pam, a couple of retirees from Washington, were more than hospitable and let us camp on their rented front lawn and gifted us with chilled watermelon for dessert and a good round of shaded chit-chat.

Again, we were up with the sun as the oven turned on in our tent.  We said our thank yous and had a short ride southbound to the area of Bahia Concepcion, where we planned on taking a good 1/2 day under a sizeable palapa with no black widows (we’ll get to that later).  This is also the part of the story when the Pacifico beer becomes relevant and our lives were changed forever.  Kinda.

Ryan got his speedo on and waited for me as I ran to the local tienda for something salty to go with tuna tortillas.  The 15 minute trip turned into a 5 hour venture as i bumped into Erroll (see pictured), a wise old man/ex-pat with a penchant for free beer and a bummed smoke, and we bullshitted over one beer which became 7. 

(I would like to break into the dialogue here, and add my two cents.  We arrived at this beautiful beach and decided that it’s where we’d spend the afternoon.  We were both hungry, and I wanted to eat, but Brett insisted on going to get “something salty,” as he said.  He also added, “Wait for me!” which, of course, I did.  Well, 15 minutes turned to an hour, and my hunger got unbearable.  I ate.  I swam.  I napped.  As the hour turned into 3 hours, 4 hours, 5 hours, I actually started to get nervous.  Where was this guy spending his day?  Who kidnapped him?  By nature, I’m not one to worry, but when I went to the tienda and saw his bike there and no rider, I got a little worried.  In the end, however, all was great, and the waiting proved worth it, as you will see.  – Ryan)

As we chatted about the local goings on, why he fled the States and the miraculous mirror lighter from Radio Shack, up walked Sven, Olaf and Ling Ling (also see pictured).  This German crew, who believe it or not also liked a few beverages, invited us all out to their anchored sail boats (plural) to catch and eat dinner.  Over the course of the evening we were mildly beaten and shackled in exchange for agreeing to stay 3 more days in almost paradise for the big 4th of July hot-dog festival in hopes to hitch a free ride over to mainland Mexico from any of the pressumed 20 boats that would be in attendance.  We agreed.  Dinners, fishing and beverages on Olaf’s gorgeous trimaran sailboat were the staple the next few days as we were brutally challenged to find a way to pass the time in a place like this.  I had 8 hot dogs at the party and Ryan ate enough to combat the homemade jello shots that were passed around.  No luck finding a sailboat to taxi us accross the Cortez as they were all headed north, but we did meet a handful of friends and I’ve put an offer down on a used 34 foot schooner.

A day of rest followed to recover and ready our quads and components for the attempt to get back on the bike and out of the Bahia towards Loreto.  First we (I should say I – Ryan wasn’t scared) had to find a way to sleep knowing the colony of black widow spiders we discovered in every palapa were lurking about as the sun went down.  Sleeping proved much easier than the next day’s ride as the sun seemed to hammer us at an unsafe distance and hydration from the past few days was certainly not achieved.  We hobbled into Loreto, barely breathing, and found the nearest coca-cola and strawberry yogurt.  Another couple of ex-pats (get the theme here folks?), who were down fishing for dorado, found us pathetic enough to invite us to come talk to their guide, Al Davis, about a place to throw the tent for the night.  Well, Al gifted us a five-star hotel ladies and gentleman.  Access to his very own backyard RV camper complete with a shower, bed and couch, stove, peanut butter, AIR CONDITIONING and a handful of VHS tapes.  Burgers (with cheese) were made and we attempted to watch a tape, but we both passed out from the comforts of the AC within seconds.  We could have married Al for his generosity if that sort of thing would be acceptable.

All in all it’s been a shit-storm of a week with a lot of everything good.  New friends, smiles, beer, sand, clear bath water, deadly spiders (“Fuck that, they won’t hurt ya!”), sailbots, RV’s, air conditioning and most importantly, showers.  The easy part about being out here is having to say thanks for the good times, but the hard part is saying goodbye.  Sometimes you wish you could stop time and be present somewhere as much as the road is long, but we have to push on.  Everyone we bump into has been in our shoes before and the understanding is mutual.  A hug and a handshake go a long way at anchoring those memories in our brains as long as possible.

Gracias por escuchar.

-Conbigotes

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Erroll, ex-pat

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Sven and Olaf, not ex-pats, but Germans

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