Left 12//12/2012 (tried for 12 noon but couldn't get out the door till 2:00 pm ) to ride cross country to join the group in LA, CA on 12/29/2012. Headed down Rt 81 to Knoxville, TN to intersect with Rt40 and head west. Smooth going except for a wind/dust storm near Amarillo, TX with winds gusting to 60mph. Snow on the ground in Flagstaff, AR but the roads were dry. Side trip to Joshua Tree National Park to celebrate Christmas and then on to LA and Irv Seaver BMW to have the bike serviced one last time before heading into Mexico.
Have communicated with the other riders in the group by e-mail but this is our first meeting. The riders are a diverse group, successful in their own fields, possessing excellent interpersonal skills and a strong desire to work together to accomplish our shared vision of arriving in Ushuaia safely.
Had met Dan Townsley before briefly at an Overland Expo in AR. The impression then and now is of a very capable, confident, direct man who I can trust to get me safely into and out of Central and South America. He is generous with help to insure that everyone's GPS unit is working. He is a certified Wilderness First Responder (Advanced Remote First Aid). He has an unobtrusive way of letting everyone ride their own ride but you know that he's always paying attention to cover your back if necessary.
Luis Mercado, 'Mac' is our sag wagon driver and general 'fix it' man for the tour. He is an avid motorcyclist. He is a furniture designer in Mexico City and also has a Mexico tour company. He is excited and honored to have been asked by Helge to assist with this tour.
Some time in everyone's life they might be fortunate enough to meet a man like Helge Pederson. It is immediately apparent that he leads these tours out of a passion to share the joy and wisdom he has experienced on his travels with others. He is quick to offer insights based on his seemingly bottomless well of experience on bike set up, riding skills, living on the road. He has perfect posture and an ever present smile. He rides a motorcycle in a fluid motion of great grace and strength.
The first day out of LA was a fast ride south on freeways to get to the border quickly. The border crossing was easy and quick. Then, after all the planning, thinking, dreaming, I am in Mexico. Helge waits behind to insure that everyone has arrived safely and then releases us to tour at our own pace. Everyone stays fairly close together for the first couple of hours and we arrive at a roadside lunch spot together. We break into small riding groups for the rest of the day. I am adjusting to the newness of everything, trying to look around but also keep my eyes on the road.
The second day was one of the best motorcycling days I have ever had. The roads are good, the mountain twisties are a blast. The bike is singing. We are in the desert. The plants are fantastic, new to me geological formations are everywhere. We ride by a roadside oasis with running surface water and a combination of large cacti and palm trees. There is a cave with pre-Columbian petroglyphs. The drivers of the cars and trucks wave and smile. We arrive at the hotel after dark, in hindsight not a good idea. There are potholes, pieces of cars and various objects on the road that can be seen in daylight but at night could be deadly. Many cars do not have functioning headlights or taillights.
The following days are full of great riding, the wondrous landscape and people. The people here are friendly. They have smiles that radiate across the road as we pass and wave. The trip gets better and better, twisting roads, views of the ocean, roadside food, good hotels every evening, delicious dinners. The ferry ride to the mainland is uneventful. We exit the ferry into a maze of roads with vehicles coming at us left and right. Street vendors approach from all directions selling roasted corn, food, drinks. The air smells of exhaust, diesel, cooking food. We approach the twisting delights of the 'Devils Backbone' our main ride for the day.
The sidecar rig is slower than the other bikes. I can't thread through traffic as easily as the narrower bikes. I don't have the speed on twisting roads. We are quickly at the back of the pack with Mac. By mid afternoon it becomes obvious that we will need to get off the Devil's Backbone and onto the toll road to make it to the hotel before dark.
Then diarrhea strikes. I hesitate to take the Cipro and Immodium I have with me and instead follow Dan and Helge's advice to drink water and let my digestive tract adjust. It is not fun riding with diarrhea but I've always liked shrubs so we form a new partnership. The combination of the diarrhea and resulting lack of sleep and 'reductores' and 'topes' and resulting sore shoulders and arms take their toll and I "hit the wall". I'm tired, sore, my whole body hurts and I'm afraid to buy roadside food for lunch for fear of further aggravating my digestive system. Mac comes to the rescue.
He shows me how to pick a roadside cafe. I'm vegetarian so I can always get a quesadilla. All I have to do is look for a refrigerator or Coke cooler to insure a cold drink without using ice. We make it the Oaxaca hotel after dark but the final miles are on the toll road where the road trash is at a minimum. Mac leads so I don' t need to watch the GPS and can concentrate fully on the road. Thank you Mac!
Mexico has been a blessing. My apprehension about drugs dealers and corrupt cops was unfounded. The people are friendly. Drivers move over to let you pass. It would be a pleasure to come back and explore in more detail.