Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Rats, There Are Rats! – 24 December 2017

24 December 2017 - Last night I woke up to rodent chewing. I thought for sure they were going to be in my bed. Then there was a hell of rodent fight. I believe I was woken up by rodent activity four times last night. I told the hotel people about it and they weren’t alarmed about it at all. They said “they’re here. We know it and will gladly move you to another room.” I opted out and stayed in my present room. I didn’t want to have to move all my bags and gear to a new room. I’m going to stay here until after Christmas. I hope the rodents don’t chew through the walls before I vacate this room. Another thing they didn’t tell me until today is the air conditioning runs from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. As I’m typing this at 5pm, I’m sweating profusely. Only two more hours to go before I can run it. I’m going to send out a bunch of e-mails today, get my blog caught up, pictures caught up and maybe have everything sent to Mary.

I’m thinking it’s time for a shower. I haven’t eaten anything since my rice dinner yesterday and I’m getting a wee bit hungry. So twice I asked the hotel if they could get me 2 hamburgers with French fries. No luck.  So I tried chicken and French fries. No luck there either. So, the kid said there was a Market / Mercado on the corner and that I should look up there for something to eat. I walked up there and bought some bread, sandwich meat, apples, toothpaste and Snickers candy bars. I have enough food to get me through tomorrow. It will be my Christmas dinner. I’ll probably have to buy some water though. 

The owner or operator of the hotel is having a Christmas Eve Fiesta. The music is loud and with a lot of babies crying and squealing kids. So they must be having fun. I just received a text from my Brazilian friends that I must respond to. They are wishing me Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Blanche’s Detours – 23 December 2017

23 December 2017 – The first thing I did when I woke up was grab my GPS and get my route around San Salvador City planned out. I was having problems avoiding the PanAm Hwy CA-1 going through the city. This is a huge problem. I was also having problems finding cities on the PanAm Hwy I could search out with Blanche. She couldn’t find the city I wanted. I changed my mind and decided to ride South of the San Salvador City and drive the route Litoral Hwy CA-2. The cities I have to drive through are much smaller. Once I decided that, I could find the two cities Blanche could navigate to and plan a route to. Blanche bought into it. So, I was good to go.

I loaded up my bike and was out the door by 9:00 a.m. I rolled up the door and the security guard was waiting outside. Why haven’t you left by 7:00 a.m? Without Wi-Fi my Spanish translator doesn’t work. Because we couldn’t communicate he finally left. I thought of something I could tell him that would answer any questions he has. I told him the tall lady from the night before said it would be ok if I stayed until 9:00 a.m. He seemed happy with that and I left. It’s another case of information not being passed on.

I got back on the PanAm Hwy CA-1 four lane heading toward Litoral Hwy CA-2. Along the way, Blanche pull a quicky on me. She found a shortcut road to Litoral Hwy CA-2. As I drove it, I was actually paralleling the newer four-lane South to Zacatecoluca. I couldn’t get off the two-lane road to get on the four-lane road. I was not happy about this. I eventually came to a road that allowed me to access the four-lane CA-2 Hwy. Blanche literally rebelled all the way. I told her to go pound it. Most of the day I drove between 45 to 60 Mph / 70 to 90 Kph except for passing through Zacatecoluca and Usulutan. Blanche wanted to drag me to another shortcut road again. This time I was ready for her and didn’t let her. She again rebelled all the way but I didn’t care. I’m going my way.

I was riding along about 55 Mph / 90 Kph when this new Adventure BMW 1100cc and Harley- Davidson Dyna-Super Glide or Wide Glide (????) pulled up alongside me. They asked me to stop. So, I did. They got off their motorcycles all glad to see me. They asked me to ride with them but they were riding way too fast for me. They wanted to cross into Honduras today. I’m sure it was because of Christmas and the border may be closed. Before we parted ways, we took pictures and they gave me a sticker of their motorcycle riding club. They were from Mexico City, Mexico on their way to Costa Rica to see a friend.

I stopped for the day in La Union. The hotel I wanted to stay in was closed down so I’m downtown / El Centro, in the Puerto Bello Hotel. It’s an interesting place. They have some retired people rooming here. I think working girls may frequent the place, and also some wayward travelers like myself. I had them clean the bathroom because it smelled bad of urine. The bed has small ants crawling across it. Every once in a while, I have them walking across my computer screen. I hope they haven’t infested my computer’s internal workings. I oiled my chain and I did some checking on the Honduran Border and went to bed.

Crossing From Guatemala to El Salvador With Del and Cal From Saskatchewan – 22 December 2017

22 December 2017 – I cleaned out my room, loaded my motorcycle and turned in my chipped door card at the office. I had the cleaning lady check that I didn’t carry off any sheets or the remotes for the TV and air conditioner. I hated to say good-bye to that room. It was nice, clean and relatively new. All the bedding was white. It was bright white and clean. Not grey. It was nicer than some of the hotels I’ve stayed in……in the U.S.

So, I’m off to the border today. I’m departing Guatemala and entering El Salvador. It’s always a challenge to look like you understand the paper process that takes place a when you process out of one country. Every country is a little different. I pulled up on the border and the semi-trucks were backed up for almost a 5/8 miles / 1 Kilometer with cars mixed in with them. Everybody was fighting to get another car length closer to the border. It’s tooth and nail. If someone thinks you’re moving ahead of them they will try to block you. I tried some creative motorcycle riding with to get ahead. The traffic was jammed so tight I couldn’t work my way through. I tried a side street which got me ahead but I couldn’t get back inline. A taxi cab driver pointed to a street I could use to get back in line. That street was backed up also. I shut my motorcycle off and just waited. While I was setting there, a semi-truck with an enclosed 53 foot / 16 Meters long trailer was also setting in line waiting. Guess what it said on the side of the trailer? Unknown trucking firm, Black River Falls, Wisconsin! Small world. That just proves that a lot of used or aged truck and trailer rigs are sold south of the US border. I took my camera out to take a picture, but just then at that exact moment, traffic broke loose and the truck moved on me. I got a picture but not a really good one. And at that very second my line broke free and here I have my camera in hand. I have to get it back into my pocket, get my gloves on, start my motorcycle and get moving. In less than 5 seconds the horns start blowing. I’m all disheveled trying to get my camera put away so it doesn’t fall to the ground causing more problems. I got everything have put away and started driving. Then the traffic stopped again. I had another moment to get myself organized. I just got my hands back on the handlebars and the car traffic started rolling again.

This time I made it all the way up to the border and was directed to park by one of the border officials. The surface I had to park on was very rutted and angled. That makes parking my motorcycle very challenging. I just got my motorcycle parked and two guys from Saskatchewan rolled in on their motorcycles. One guy was riding a Harley-Davidson and the other a Yamaha, I think. I had to go and get some copies made and I went to the wrong place. When they found out I couldn’t speak Spanish the women were giggling among themselves and the guys were throwing in their 50 cents’ worth. Anyway, I collected up my paperwork and typed in my translator “Thank you for not being able to help me”. I showed it to the woman who was giggling, laughing, and talking the most. She had that look on her face wondering why he would be thanking me for not helping him. I hope if she thinks any more about it she will realize it actually means the opposite of that.

I moved to the next building up where the copying machine was. The other two motorcycle riders were already there getting their duplicate copies of everything. So, I got in line and got my copies. This is when I also met the English-speaking helper / fixer. I can’t remember his name. We then went and got in the Immigration line to get our passports stamped exiting Guatemala and a small slip of paper. There was no explanation for the small slip of paper. From there we went to Customs, getting our motorcycles cleared out of Guatemala and entered into El Salvador. We get the paperwork filled out and the helper guy has my passport, my driver’s license and my original title. He also has the other two guys’ paperwork. I’m setting there constantly reminding myself to no forget to get back your passport, driver’s license and original title. There are so many distractions going on and always in a rush. I had to caution myself about not forgetting something. We probably waited 2 to 3 hours seated on hard benches in an air-conditioned room.

Eventually we get called up. I was first. My telephone number and e-mail was missing from the form and it needed to be signed. Next Del and Cal were called and probably filled in something similar. We then had the VIN numbers on our motorcycle checked. We were given our El Salvador forms, passports, drivers license, and original titles back. The Customs Official said we were finished and could go. We all three asked the same thing: are we finished? Both the Customs Official and our helper said we were finished. We could go. We paid our helper about $20 dollars and parted ways. As the two other guys were leaving our helper was hollering at them to go right or something like that. I was wondering what that was all about.

I got my papers arranged as best I could and left the same way they left. I was about 5 minutes behind the other two. I got stalled out in traffic some but eventually worked my way out of the border area. I said to myself “I’ve got to stop and check my passport to see that I was stamped in to El Salvador.” Just as I broke free of the border traffic here comes the other two motorcycle riders heading back to the border. I found a spot to pull over and checked my passport. Bad news, no El Salvador passport stamp in my passport.  As I was checking my passport, I was parked in somebody’s driveway entrance. It wasn’t long before I had an audience. A young couple in their early thirties and their three children. The oldest son was into riding dirt bikes and they mentioned they like my spare tires I was carrying. They all wanted their pictures taken with me and we parted ways.

I drove back to the border to get my passport stamped. The semi-trucks are lined up 5/8 of a mile / 1 Kilometer long. So, I drive into on-coming traffic to get back to the border. I met probably 10 cars coming at me. I get as close as possible to the semi-trucks and the cars move over enough to let me through. So, life goes on. When I get back to border there sat the other two motorcycle riders. The first thing I asked them was, “I bet your passports weren’t stamped, were they?” They said, no and pointed to where I should go and get my passport stamped. They said you’ll need that small piece of paper they gave you when you got your passport stamped out of Guatemala. They said “don’t worry about your bike, we’ll be here when you get back.”

I go and get in the passport line. There were about 20 people in front of me. It went pretty fast and soon I was at the window. I handed the lady my passport and small piece of paper. She made an entry in her computer and gave back my passport. I asked her if she could stamp it? She said, El Salvador doesn’t stamp passports anymore in a time saving effort / or just moving out of the dark ages. So, I’m good to go. As I was standing in line I figured out what our border helper / fixer was hollering about. He wanted us to stop at Immigration to get our passports stamped. Well, everyone said we were finished and we took it literally but in reality, we were finished with Customs and not Immigration. I was asking myself while I was standing in line why our helper didn’t tell us to get our passports stamped at Immigration before we all were on our motorcycles and leaving the border. Immigration was less than 35 Yards / 35 Meters away. I’m guessing there will continue to be some mysteries in this trip. The fact is if the three of us had not caught that mistake we may have had to drive back across El Salvador to get our passports fixed before they would let us exit El Salvador, or pay some fee to get our passport fixed. You can imagine how blue the language would have been upon hearing that news. I’m still learning.

I went back to Del and Cal and chatted it up some with them. They said, they need to find an ATM and weren’t having any luck with their GPS. I know the feeling having had to work with both Matilda in Russia, and Blanche here. They can be quite bull headed when they have a mind to. I told them I could check my GPS and find a Bank or ATM. Sure enough Blanche located five ATM’s. One of the banks had an ATM / Automatico so that’s the one we headed to. Del asked if I wanted to ride with them and I said, “you guys ride too hard for me and I’d never keep up and I don’t want to crash with my heavy load.” We had to drive 11 Miles / 18 Kilometers to get to the town. I told Del more than likely the bank will be right downtown / El Centro. He said, no problem, we need money. So, they rode ahead and then waited for me to catch up. They were about 5 miles / 8 Kilometers out of the city waiting for me to arrive. Once I got near the city I programmed Blanche to lead us into the city. What looked simple on the GPS was about a 3 Mile / 5 Kilometer trip into the city.

We entered the city sometime after 3:00 p.m. and rush hour was starting up with stop and go traffic. We did our best to work our way through the traffic but sometimes you just can’t get through. So, you sit and idle. When you’re driving air cooled engines, this wreaks havoc on them. I could feel their pain. On the plus side, I never missed a turn with Blanche. She even dragged us through some side streets, a sure sign she’s lost. When she did that I reprogrammed her, and let continue leading us. Again, I never missed a turn, but then another side street and I was thinking the worst. I looked at her map and it showed the bank on the corner. Everyone was relieved when we pulled in there. Del said his Harley was running really hot and so was Cal’s motorcycle. I’m sure Cal’s bike was water cooled.
The security guard went on alert when we pulled in. We were under serious scrutiny. When we all got our money and just sat around talking he wasn’t as concerned as when were withdrawing money. We talked it up some for over thirty minutes and then parted ways. As far as I know they’re heading for Columbia. After those guys left, a young guy pulled in with his car alongside my motorcycle and told me he just loved my motorcycle.  He wants to get one but just can’t afford it right now.

I headed back to the PanAm Hwy / CA1. I found a hotel that wasn’t an Auto Hotel and typed in the GPS coordinates. Blanche took me right to the spot. I pulled into the hotel and it’s under renovation. They recommended an Auto Hotel 1.5 Miles / 3 Kilometers down the road. They said, when you see the gas station with the smiley face, you’re near. They were right on the money. I drove into the hotel. I spoke with the lady, and for 18 Dollars I could stay until 9:00 a.m. She asked if I would need anything. I asked for another blanket and three bottles of water. She also said they have a menu that included hamburgers and french fries. I ordered 2 hamburgers and fries. Those hamburgers tasted as good as McDonalds. I couldn’t eat both of those hamburgers, it was just too much to eat. I waited a couple of hours and ate the other. I worked on my directions for tomorrow and wasn’t having too much luck for some reason. So, I gave it up for the night and went to bed.

Blog Work – 21 December 2017

21 December 2017 – Today is my brother Larry’s birthday. I’m guessing he’s turning 61. Happy Birthday Beard. I pretty much just worked on my blog all day. I started working on it outside in a beautiful courtyard. I found it too distracting so I moved back into my room and continued working on it. There was a family of Guatemalans (I think) setting around the pool. There were close to 14 members: Grandpa and Grandma, the children and grandchildren. All the kids had cell phones, blue tooth devices and the latest clothes. However, none of them could swim very well. If they had to swim 35 Yards or 35 Meters I’m sure they would drown. If you looked at their hands, the boys never did a day’s work in their lives. Otherwise you couldn’t tell them from any other family in the U.S. I have to see what surprises my camera holds. 

Friendly Guard Dogs - 20 December 2017

20 December 2017 – I got my wakeup call about 7:30 a.m. I already had my motorcycle loaded. I found out I couldn’t get the garage door to open until the room was checked out by the cleaning lady. Once it was, the garage door magically opened up. I backed my bike out and parked it for few minutes until I put on my helmet and got Blanche fired up. I walked to one of the exit doors to see what road was running by this hotel. I judged that it was the Pan American Hwy. What luck, and a ramp to get on to it. The day was looking up already. Besides the two guard dogs on each side of the guard house, there was another one on the roof of the hotel. His front paws were on the edge of the roof and he was looking down. I had never seen that before. At first I thought it was one of the two I had seen on the ground, and I wondered how he got up there? Then I realized it was a third dog.  He looked like he wished he could get down.  The two guard dogs on each side of the guard house didn’t seem very guard-ish.  They were big, friendly-looking dogs, one looking like a chow mix, and the other had blue eyes.  They didn’t even woof when I went by. Here’s that security thing I’ve been talking about. They lock up these establishments, cameras, guard dogs, and a gun toting live security guard. I really wonder what would happen after 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. if they weren’t around. Anyway, I waved good bye to the guy that help me get the room last night and was off to Pan American Hwy.

I followed the road through town uneventfully. Once Blanche tried to stray from her route but I was able to ignore her directions and stay on the Pan American Hwy. I drove past two McDonalds on the way out of town. Then a third one popped up and I drove in. I ordered breakfast and used their Wi-Fi to find a hotel for the night. I continued on to the Guatemala / El Salvador border. Much to my surprise, they had four-lane most of the way with a new concrete portion that was about one or two years old. It was nice driving. I’m about 13 Miles / 22 Kilometers from the border right now in a nice expensive hotel with Wi-Fi. It even has its own power plant in case the electricity goes out. I’m still wondering where the clientele comes from who stay at this hotel. My being in this fancy hotel is another accident because I actually thought I drove through the town I wanted to stop in. So when this hotel popped up, I drove in. I knew it was going to be expensive but I wanted the Wi-Fi and I knew it had it. I’m planning on staying two days to get caught up on my blog and check into El Salvador a little bit. When I leave in the morning I will be crossing the border noon.

A Trying Day – 19 December 2017

19 December 2017 – This Auto Hotel is really nice. It was decorated in the Christmas theme: everything in red, colorful lights, poinsettias and even a complementary condom. The farther south I go into the tropics I have found that clothing left on chairs (socks, shirts and pants etc.) are damp in the morning. Even my wrist sweatbands that I wear, left out overnight will be damp. If you get into bed late at night you can feel the dampness in the sheets. A peculiarity with Auto Hotels is that they rent their rooms by the hour, and they are very particular about when you leave. They usually are very security-oriented. In other words, when the garage door closes, you’re locked in. If you are to leave at 6:00 a.m. they will call your room to give you a wakeup call if you’re not up and moving. These hotels are basically love nests and the participants usually like to take souvenirs. So before you’re allowed to leave, the cleaning lady comes in and counts the sheets and towels to see that none of them disappeared. This particular hotel had monogrammed towels and sheets. So, you can see their concern.

This hotel was located about 5 Yards / 5 Meters off of the Autopista. Right in front of the door was a pothole about 1 Yard / 1 meter in diameter. It was about 4 Inches / 10 Centimeters deep. It was right in the wheel track of the Autopista. All day and night the trucks bounced through that pothole. What a racket!  When a semi-truck that was loaded heavy drove through it, it would shake the building. These are solid concrete buildings and you still feel the building shake. The noise died down after 11:00 p.m. when the traffic died off and they closed all the doors for the night and shut the lights off. That’s kind of the down side of Auto Hotels, and they usually don’t have Wi-Fi. Aside from that it still was a nice hotel.

Anyway, I left by 8:00 a.m. per my agreement and programmed Blanche to take me back into town to find another ATM to purchase Guatemala Quetzals. She took me back downtown to the exact area I was in yesterday afternoon. All the streets were crowded with people selling their goods and produce. I found a street I was going to turn down. Guess what? Right on the corner was a bank. The bank didn’t open until 9:00 a.m. and I was early. The security person said I’d have to wait until 9:00 a.m. So, I did. The bank staff started showing up about 8:30 in the morning. Within about 10 minutes, about 9 employees showed up. Everybody shook hands and gave faux hugs and kisses. I watched and said to myself “I can’t imagine seeing that in the U.S., let alone in the work place.” They were all waiting for someone to show up with the key to let them in. Eventually the door was unlocked and they went in. I had to wait probably another 20 minutes to allow the bank to get organized. I was then let in and searched for weapons. Both security people were carrying shotguns.

I went up to the counter and said I’d like to purchase Guatemalan Quetzal with a credit card.  The girls gave me the deer in the headlight look. Then they started giggling, about what I’m not sure. They had to talk to their supervisor and they came back. Their reply was nope, no way, we can’t do that for you. So I asked them through my translator if they knew where an ATM was located. They wrote down 2 banks and their names. I asked them if they could draw a small map where these banks were. The location was three blocks away from this bank. I asked them if I could walk and they said yes. They said the banks were next to a small city park which was in front of a old Catholic Church. The security guard said I could leave my motorcycle where it was parked. I thanked him. I’m off on another adventure.

I started walking and counting blocks. Now, I know you’re all thinking these were paved streets with curb and gutter. These were streets that could handle a single car driving down it comfortably, usually one way only. As I was walking down the street, I was the tallest person. I stick out with my red riding suit. One particular car was coming down the street and was putting a squeeze on the walking pedestrians. So, I stepped back to get out of his way. The lady about 3 Yards / 3 Meters away sees my get-out-of-the-way maneuver and instantly reached down to grab her purse. Then she gives me that look that says “you’re not going to get it without a fight!” Once the car went by I stepped out and continued on my way.

I eventually counted off three blocks and arrived at the small park the bank teller was telling me about. I staggered around looking for a bank. I’m not having much luck seeing either one of the banks. They have police patrolling and directing traffic downtown because the traffic is so heavy and the pedestrians are elbow to elbow. It’s the market area of the town. All you would need is to have one person get mad and start throwing produce or clothing around and World War III would break out. Anyway, I show the police officer my note and he pointed out the banks. The bank entrance has 10 people standing in line waiting to get in. It works like a crowded nightclub: one person leaves and one person is allowed in. Then you’re checked for weapons with a metal detector. While I was standing in line, this lady ran up and stood beside me. I guess she thought I was pretty tall. She really didn’t say anything and then left. It finally was my turn to enter the bank. I was searched for weapons and then let in. I picked a chair and waited until someone became free who I could talk with. I gave them the same note saying I would like to purchase Guatemalan Quetzal with my credit card. The same deer in the headlight look. That’s not good. So, he went and talked to his supervisor. Nope we can’t help you with that. I asked if they had a ATM. They said, yes outside. I asked him to show me. It was behind a metal door out of sight for security reasons. I put in my debit card and typed all my information in. It didn’t accept it. Damn, what now? I re-tried the card in case I made a mistake. It rejected the card again. Now what? So, we left the ATM and he pointed at the other bank saying it had an ATM too. I thanked him for his help and walked over to the other bank.

I walked inside the bank and asked where the ATM was. They said it outside and around the corner. I checked outside and around the corner, and sure enough there it was. This setup was a little different. You had to reach through the bars to access the ATM. I got in line again and waited my turn. I get to the ATM, put my card in and all my information. The card was rejected. I tried a second time and it was rejected again. You know I’m getting worried right about now. What am I going to do? Then I thought I’ll try using my credit card. Remember, you’re standing in a crowd of on lookers. So you’re always wondering what if?????  I get this card out and run it. Everybody is watching. It was rejected and my heart sank. It said wrong password. So, I typed in another password, put all my information in and waited. It’s grinding away and all of sudden it says it’s accepted!. Praise God. I make another transaction and off I go. I hate people standing there watching, even in the U.S.

I walked back to the bank where I had my motorcycle parked. I went in and asked for some small bills and told the girls working the counters / tellers that I was able to purchase Guatemalan Quetzal from the ATM they mentioned. They were happy for me and I thanked them and the Security Guard for their help.

I’m off to Guatemala City. It was a long day of driving winding roads, speed bumps and potholes. I had my route planned out the night before so it was just a matter of getting Blanche back on Pan American Highway CA1. I thought I was still some ways out of Guatemala City when I stopped at a McDonalds and ordered supper. It was about 4:00 p.m. I ordered a Big Mac meal. It was good to eat some good old McDonald hamburgers. The first in months. I was able to use their Wi-Fi to find a hotel. Actually, I found three hotels. I left McDonalds about 5:00 p.m. in peak rush hour traffic. I don’t think I’m going to drive rush hour traffic in these cities again if I can avoid it. It’s pretty cut throat driving and it makes me want to cut my throat.

Within 2 Miles, I got caught up in stop and go traffic and then had to drive stop and go residential traffic. I arrived in the area and in the middle of a city market with crowds of people. The street was crowded with people and only wide enough for my motorcycle. I believe I found the hotel. It was pretty seedy and looked like working girls were hanging out on the stairs into the hotel. I typed in the second hotel and proceeded to drive more stop and go traffic to get to it. Again, it was a repeat of the first hotel. Cops were patrolling the area with shotguns. More residential stop and go traffic. I was blocked in by a barricade for about 10 minutes. A cop was sitting in his car right next to me. I finally got tired of idling my motorcycle and used my front tire to push the barricade out of the way so I could get through. Then somebody grabbed the barricade and pulled it off to side of the road. I was able to get through and back moving. I followed the motorcycles back out on to the highway again.
This is the third time I went back out on to the highway to reach another hotel. More diesel smoke and fumes. I’m about to gag. My nose is running and I’m coughing and hacking. On top of that, I am totally soaked inside of my red riding suit. I exit off the highway again following Blanche’s directions, and she leads me to this third hotel. Of course, I miss the location of hotel because there are no street signs. I spend 30 minutes going from block to block looking for this hotel. I’m within 200 Yards / 200 Meters of this hotel and I can’t find it. It is also getting dark. That’s not good. I thought I finally found it but it turns out it’s some kind of private property behind heavy steel doors. I asked the guy if he knew where there was a hotel around here. He pointed down the street. I looked back and then for the third time I set about driving stop and go residential traffic to get to this hotel. The guys working on the street start to realized I don’t know where I’m going and I don’t like that. I got all the way to the end of the street, then reprogrammed Blanche again for a fresh start. It clears any confusion in her mind. I start following her directions again. She says turn right, drive to Calle 1a and turn right. It was little lumpy but I made the second right and there was the hotel.

I drive in and park. I can’t believe I finally found this joint. It’s another Auto Hotel. I spoke with the person managing the parking lot / receptionist. I said I would like one room for the night. He said we are full for the night. And you know what my words to myself were at that moment. So I said, through my translator that I have been looking for this hotel for over one hour. He suddenly began to be more friendly. I stood around drinking water thinking about what I should do. I finally asked him if he can help me out. He asked me if I could wait. I told him yes. He said in 30 minutes a room will open up. I told him I could wait. The 30 minutes came and went and apparently there were other people waiting, unknown to him. His parking lot had cars coming and going. This place was doing a brisk business. So he came to me and said “you can have a room right now and you have to leave at 6:00 a.m. in the morning or wait until 8:00 p.m. and leave at 8:00 a.m. in the morning.” I told him I would wait until 8:00 p.m. I had a one and half hour wait ahead of me. What will I do to keep myself busy? I texted Mary and I checked my route on my GPS for tomorrow. That pretty much kept me occupied until my room became available. 8:00 p.m. rolled around and he came and got me. I asked him to speak to the lady on the garage phone and tell her I do not speak Spanish which he did. So, I pulled my motorcycle into the garage, closed the door and went upstairs to see my room.

I encountered a green metal door at the top of the stairs. I’m standing there and I hear some Spanish. I didn’t understand a word of it. Pretty soon, a small door opens up like I’m suppose to put something in it. Eureka! I’m suppose to put my money in it for the room. I put in 300 Quetzal and wait. A minute or so later the door is unlocked, rotated 90 degrees, locked and I am allowed into my room. I walk into my room. It’s nice enough and comes with a Jacuzzi and other amenities, none of which I will use. I unload my bike and haul everything upstairs. The stairs were a little weird. The height of one step to the next is about 12 Inches plus / 20 Centimeters plus. I used the handle so I didn’t trip and fall while I was carrying my bags up to my room. All I did that night was turn back the sheets on the bed, drink more water, take off my clothes, get in bed and sleep. I was sleeping before 9:00 p.m. I was tired.

My Motorcycle Tried to Take a Nap! – 18 December 2017

18 December 2017 – I got packed up and left the hotel. I said goodbye to the cleaning guy. He got there early just so he could say goodbye to me. We made some small talk through my cell phone. He told me he wanted to come to the United States and make lots of money. I felt sad for him. It seems unlikely that he will go through the legal immigration process, and if he came in illegally, then who knows how long before Customs and Immigration catches him. He will for sure be deported back to his country. Remember the college professor I met at the Mexican and Guatemalan border? I think she was trying to get out of Guatemala to Canada: just my own thoughts. So, anyway I filled up with gas before I left town.

I thought I would be riding semi-decent roads once I left the hotel. Not so. It was one small town after another. That went on for 20 or 30 miles. I don’t think there was ever more than 2 miles / 3 Kilometers between towns and that went on and on and on. To add to that, every little town had a least 5 or 6 speed bumps along with broken pavement and pot holes. Someone told me Guatemala doesn’t have any speed limits so they put speed bumps through the towns to slow down traffic. After driving all day, I might believe that. They are the most annoying thing about this trip.

I finally saw a restaurant I could pull in to and park. Most of restaurants have an 8 to 10 Inch / 20 to 25 Centimeter drop off when you leave the pavement to the dirt. With my top heavy bike, that is difficult to navigate. So I look for restaurants that are easy in and out. This one was easy in and out so I stopped and ordered my usual Huevos Rancheros. Initially I had difficulty talking to the waitress but once we got the translator thing going my order went right through to the kitchen. The food was great and I tipped her on the way out.

I got back on the road and drove until my butt needed a break. I was driving mostly mountain roads with switchbacks, broken roads and speed bumps. You’re not idling your brain while you drive these roads. Everybody is on the gas and kick’n ass. It’s in your best interest to keep that in mind while you drive. 

I pulled into a gas station to take a break and get a drink. I was only going to be there for 5 or 10 minutes. I never even got off my bike until I saw what I thought was a picture moment. I checked my bike to see that it wouldn’t fall over and got off. I walked over to where I was going to take the picture and was looking around. The next thing I heard was CRASH! My bike had fallen over. I tore over there knowing I couldn’t lift it up. I whistled at the gas station attendants to come help. The three of us couldn’t lift it up. While it was laying on its side the gas cap was leaking gas. The third guy left to go pump gas in a car leaving me and 2nd guy to lift this bike. I pulled the tires and the bags off the bike as fast as possible because of the leaking gas. Once the heavy bags were off we lifted the bike back on its wheels quite easily. I remembered that this crap happened to me in Russia. That time, it was setting just fine. I changed oil in it and turned my back on it to move the drain oil. The next thing I hear is CRASH! In that case I had to unload the top box and one of saddle bags to get it set back up. God that ticked me off.

Once we got it set back up I started putting my bags back on. Then I thought maybe I better check the controls to see if anything was bent or broken. I went to start the bike and it started a little hard but started. So, the carburetor didn’t get messed up. I could see the mirrors were messed up and then I tried the clutch lever. The guard covering the clutch lever had bent, interfering with the clutch lever. I pulled my tools out of my saddle bags and removed it from the bike. I’m glad that handlebar guard was made of extruded aluminum. It's soft and gummy and easily bent. I had to shorten it and take the twist out of it. Right where I was working, I found an old mud flap off a truck. I used that to protect the aluminum and the plastic guard from the concrete. I probably put that guard on and off the bike ten times before I got it fitting correctly. Getting the twist out of it was the most difficult. I used my vise grips and adjustable wrench to get the twist out. Then I had to hammer on it some. It still was too long so I bent the end a little more and tried it out. It fit almost as good a new, but with the wrench and hammer marks it’s not as pretty. The clutch lever is free inside the guard, whereas before the little ball on the end of the clutch lever was binding. Everything still cleared the gas tank also. I was afraid the handlebars might be bent and interfere with the gas tank. The saddle bags got some new scratches as well as the plastic handlebar guards. It doesn’t make me happy but at least I was able to reasonably straighten it out. Before I put my bags back on I took it for a test spin in the parking lot. Everything seemed to work ok so I loaded it back up and took off. A lot of fun for just wanting to stop for a drink and give your butt a rest.

I saw the size of the city San Cristobal so decided to drive in and see if I could find an ATM. I spent a lot of time driving around in the city center and not finding it. So, I tried a 2nd location and ran into the same problems. I didn’t find either of them. A lot of monkey business. So, I had Blanche find me a hotel. She takes me over hill and dale. I’m sitting there waiting to get on Autopista and said to myself, I should just go to that hotel I see right there and skip going to the hotel Blanche is taking me to. But, I followed her directions and down the road we went 1 Mile / 2 Kilometers hooked a u-turn and returned to the same hotel!  Some days I would really like to kick Blanche in the butt and today was one of them.

I pulled into the Auto Hotel. I’m looking for the office. I can’t see it. I hear people talking but can’t see them. Finally, I found them. They’re up one story and hollering at me. They were speaking Spanish which I couldn’t understand. I was the biggest fool in their eyes and they were laughing and carrying on.  Dumb Gringo! Finally, I got them to come down to where I could communicate with them. They did have a room more expensive than I wanted but it was close to 5:00PM and I wanted to get off the highway. True to form, the dudes can only talk but not think. Finally, the women and I started communicating. I got the room price nailed down, paid for it, and got a receipt. She wasn’t that hard to work with. It’s a nice place that doesn’t smell like mold. She gave me an extra blanket so I’ll be warm. I must leave at 8:00AM. Tomorrow I’ll see if can find another ATM. Even though Blanche gives me directions, I still can’t find the streets. None of the streets have street signs. If I drive by a street she goes into the recalculating mode and that is not so helpful. So, I will try again tomorrow and see what happens.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Laying Low Waiting For Montezuma to Leave - 17 December 2017

17 December 2017 – I didn’t wake up until 10:00 a.m. I was wondering how I slept that late. My stomach seems in pretty good shape. No churning or anything. I went up and paid for another day. No way was I going to venture out on the highway and have one of those moments where I have to stop immediately. I’m not wearing Depends Adult Diapers. So I continued working on my blog and hopefully I get the pictures and Word document sent to Mary so she can update my blog.

I continue to keep myself hydrated but I’m a little scared to eat anything solid. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try some real food but for today, just water. 

I had the cleaning people come in and clean the bathroom. There’s a puddle of water that sets in front of the commode. When you use the commode you either put your feet in it or you sit sideways on the toilet. Yesterday the cleaning people cleaned the bathroom and left that water there. They didn’t leave a shower mat and if you use the shower you add to the puddle. I asked them for a shower mat. If you stand in it you make tracks all over the hotel room. Other than that, I could care less about bathrooms.

Crossing the Border, and a Visit From Montezuma - 16 December 2017

16 December 2017 – I woke up once during the night to a rooster who didn’t know it was 3:30 a.m. I looked at the clock thinking I was glad I didn’t have get up yet. All to soon 4:30 arrived. I loaded my bike, took a picture of Anna and Julio and said goodbye. They unlocked the rolling gate and let me out. I was off to leave Mexico and enter Guatemala.

I went the back way out of the hotel up to Mexican Customs and Immigration buildings and when I got there all the building were dark. Not a good sign. I should have check the hours of operation yesterday when I was across the street from them eating breakfast. I didn’t think of it. I thought to myself, “Customs and Immigration must be up by the border.” I ride the 2 miles / 3 Kilometer up to the border. I get there and the road turns into a Y. Everything is written in Spanish. The only words I recognize is bathrooms / banos. So I take the right lane /arm of the Y. I drive down this road and it’s starting to look like this road is for trucks. I don’t see any cars. I turn around and go back to the left lane /arm of the Y. This looks like it’s a one-way street and I’m going in the wrong direction. I turn around and I drive out. I get back to the Y, and in drives a car and a pickup the exact same way I just drove in. So, it must be two-way street into the border crossing. I followed these vehicles in and they eventually stopped at some vendors alongside of the street. I pass them all up and arrive at the border.

At the border, there was one those international orange cones setting in the middle of the road in a wet spot and an individual flagging me down to stop. I did and he requested my paperwork on the motorcycle. In about 15 second he sprayed something on my motorcycle to fumigate it. I'm not sure what they are trying to prevent hitching a ride in from Mexico. Hence the reason for the wet spot. 

I went in the office with him and he filled out the paperwork, made copies and updated his computer on my entry. He then presented me bill / fee of $11.00 Quetzal / $1.50 dollars. I told him I didn’t have any Quetzal and he motioned in a money changer. I told him I had 4000 Mexican pesos to change. The money changer pulls out a stack of money over 5 Inches tall / 13 Centimeters. The money changer offered me 1400 Quetzal and I counter offered him 1500 Quetzal. He did some quick math and said that was ok with him. That left him with about $5.00 dollars / 35 Quetzal profit.

I paid the Fumigation Official and he then told me to go to Immigration. I rode my bike over maybe 10 yards / 10 meters and parked it. I had to wait about 15 minutes for the office to be cleaned and one of the Immigration officials cordially helped me. He brought over the forms for me to fill out that were in Spanish and English. Something still wasn’t setting right with me about this whole situation. I finally asked “do you stamp my exit from Mexico?” He said, No and then said, you have to go back to Mexican Customs and Immigration in Cuidad Cuauhtemoc the city I just came from. No worries it’s a short ride from the border back to Cuidad Cuauhtemoc.

I get back to Customs and Immigration in Cuidad Cuauhtemoc. You guessed it, the building are still dark. I checked the time they are open. Can you believe this? 9:00 a.m. is the opening time. I was wondering why I was there at 6:00 a.m. I think the person handing out my information might not have been in the know or wanted me there early enough so I don’t have to stand in line. Just at that time a 30-some year-old Hispanic women came walking up to me speaking English. She was the same women I saw at the hotel earlier. She said she was told by Anna to be at Customs and Immigration by 5:30 a.m. She thought that was weird because they don’t open till 9:00 a.m. Well, we were facing a couple of hours wait until the Customs and Immigration Officials show up. She went around pounding on doors and found a guard who said one or more officials may be here by 8:00 a.m. That was questionable and so we waited. I found out she was from Guatemala and was hooking up with her boyfriend from Quebec, Canada. I asked her what her occupation was and she told me she was a professor at some university and her boyfriend was a student of sorts. That wasn’t clear. The only reason I asked is her car was a one or two-year-old Volkswagen vehicle with no door dings, scrapes, and had good tires. This is not unusual but it makes you wonder what her station in life is. I bet if you pursued it there’s a story there.

Well anyway, sometime after 8:00 a.m. the doors opened up and Immigration began receiving people. We have been there now for two hours plus. A car drives up just as I was about to walk in and get my passport stamped. The guy raced to the door and I thought this sucker is going to cut in line in front of me and I’ve been waiting here two hours. Much to my surprise he opened the door and let me in. Getting my passport stamped was quite uneventful. Even going through Customs was uneventful. They checked my Mexican vehicle pass to my Vehicle Identification Number. Everything checked out ok so she let me go. My Mexican vehicle pass is good for six months so they didn’t cancel it. I still have to get my motorcycle checked out of Mexico after the six months expire or I can never bring that motorcycle back into Mexico. I heard stories of it costing $600 to fix the problem if you ever want to bring the offending vehicle back into Mexico.

So, I’m off to the Guatemalan border again. I was waved threw the fumigation station right to Immigration. Again, the same cordial gentleman helped me with my passport and immigration forms. Everything went well, I got all the I’s dotted and my name signed in all the correct places. I was then directed to Customs to have my motorcycle imported in to Guatemala.

There was a customer at the window who took a rather long time. I waited. A British couple showed up while I was waiting. They were leaving Guatemala with their van they had purchased in the U.S.A. They had been traveling for a year in Central and South America. She said she worked in education and I’m not sure what he did. They may have saved money by sleeping in their van. They had a full-size Dodge Ram Van which they purchased in California. I know they made it to Argentina and I didn’t hear it was a mechanical nightmare so it must have ran ok for them. Eventually, the customer in front of me was finished and it was my turn. I handed all my motorcycle paper work to the Customs Official. He took it and checked it out. Everything was in order and he preceded to fill out the Guatemala paperwork I needed. It went pretty smooth except he didn’t quite understand something about my license plate. So I dashed out, pointed at the plate and everything was ok. He required a $22.00 Dollar / $160.00 Quetzal fee. I had to go to the bank next door, only about 7 Yards / 7 Meters away. I paid it and returned to the window to get my copies of the forms.

I request copies of all my forms in case I get stopped by corrupt police officers and everything is confiscated. That way I would still have the originals. Initially he didn’t want to make these copies but eventually he did. He said I was finished and could go. Praise the Lord I’m out of here! I get everything securely put on my bike. My bike is setting on an angled surface which lends itself to some unstable situations. I can’t wait until I can use those tires sitting on top of my bike and get them off there.

I left Customs and Immigration looking for the town of La Democracia. I’m looking for Hotel Valle Occidental in this town. It looks like a better hotel from all the ones I saw on the Internet. Getting out of that border town area is quite a trip. Between people parking anywhere available, 3 wheeled taxis zooming in all different direction, trucks too big to turn corners that were constructed for horse and buggies, and motorcycles the vehicle of choice for getting in and out of tight spots fast. I only had to drive 10 miles / 15 Kilometers to the hotel.

I pulled into a restaurant thinking it was part of the hotel. The hotel was across the street. While I was at the restaurant I ate breakfast. The usual, of course. When I finished I drove over to hotel and got a room. $16 Dollars / 115 Quetzal not a bad price for a room. KOA tent sites cost more than this room.

The price was good but the room had a very moldy smell. I mean bad. I don’t think it had been rented out in over two weeks. The towel looked flat on the bed, the soap was sunk into the towel, and the bedspread was showing the high and low spots in the mattress. Kind of like bedspreads in the castles in England. I thought if I ran the fan all day with the door open the smell would lesson. Not really. I worked on my blog most of the afternoon until 7:00 p.m., updating everything for Mary.

I then went to the hotel restaurant for super. It was a good meal and I enjoyed it. I asked for a bottle of water and they brought me a glass of water from their filtered water cooler. I thought it would be ok. I ate everything and came back to the room and continued working on my blog. When I first laid down to sleep my head was up by the headboard. I start sneezing profusely, just nonstop. Finally, I turned the fan on to full speed and slept with my head at the foot of the bed under the fan. I stopped sneezing and was able to sleep. By 10:00 p.m. Montezuma’s Revenge had set in. First the commode and then the barfing. All my supper went down the toilet. It was restless night not knowing when Montezuma would come calling again. I hope I don’t have another repeat episode of that again. It kind of reminded me of when I was in the Country of Laos and developed food poisoning. The same symptoms. I took my anti-diarrhea pills and my stomach seems to have settled down now. It hasn’t been doing that constant churning anymore.

Apparently, I’m Not Presentable - 15 December 2017

15 December 2017 – I need to walk downtown today and get something to eat and scout around some. I would like to find an easier way out of this hotel other than straight up the hill to Mexican Hwy 190. The hill is rutted up, steep, and you have a 6 inch / 15 centimeter jump to get back on the black top. It’s risky to attempt that with my top-heavy bike. So I walked into the town center on a street behind the hotel that was nicely paved. I followed it into town till I found a street that connected back to Mexican Hwy 190 that wasn’t death defying. 

I went to the bus terminal that had a restaurant in it. I ordered my usual Huevos Rancheros and Refried Beans. That was the best meal I had eaten in a long time. It was first time it was in such a large quantity. I couldn’t eat all the tortillas.

As I walked back I stopped and looked in the old Catholic Church in the city square. It was beautiful. I took some pictures of it. It was all dressed up for Christmas.  I stopped in a small Grocery Store / Mercado on the way back to the hotel. The farther south I go the more motorcycle repair shops I see.  Oh oh, is that a bad omen about the quality of the roads to come?

When I got back to the hotel, Anna the receptionist asked if I was going to get my hair cut. WHAT?? I wasn’t planning on it. She said, we go now. I take you to the salon. Did I really look that bad? I had a feeling this was going to be another adventure. Off we went to the salon. She talked to the ladies in the salon and they had no interest in cutting my hair. So she asked if they knew where the barber shop in town was. They kind of did but just pointed to the other end of town. So off we went looking for the barber shop. Anna stopped four times to ask different people before we found it. Most of the people knew about it but not for sure where it was. We finally found it with two young guys cutting hair. Of course, Anna supervised my hair cut. I told the both of them more hair on the floor is better than less. They thought that was pretty funny. I got a hair cut and my beard trimmed for about a $1.60. It doesn’t look too bad. So, off we went back to the hotel.

The rest of the day I worked on my blog and finished up some final preparations to cross the Mexican / Guatemala border. Of course, I’m thinking the worst. You read all these horror stories all over the internet and your mind runs wild with all the problems you can have crossing international borders. My plan was to be up at 4:30 a.m. and out of the hotel by 6:00 a.m. I was hoping to get to border before it gets so busy it takes 5 hours to get through it. I went to bed.

Oops - 14 December 2017

14 December 2017 – I started out going through my paperwork to cross the border, read all the precautions, got out my Guatemalan maps, got Blanche tuned up for Central America and wrote some more entries for my blog. I was planning on braving the border crossing on the 15th of December. I tried to fire up Blanche’s Central American maps, and found I didn’t have the S/D Card with the maps for Central America. How did I ever overlook that? Damn, that set me on my ear. What’s the plan now? 

I went online and found a set of maps for Central America and decided I would purchase them. I would have to download them off the internet to my GPS and that not a strong suit for me. I texted Mary and asked if she would help me get through the downloading process. I would have much preferred purchasing an S/D Card with the maps already loaded.  Take out one S/D Card and put in another. That’s my kind of changing maps, but there was no time to wait for a package. Mary got back to me and we settled down for a long process. I showed her what I wanted. She walked me through ordering it online and even found a 20% discount online!  GPS Travel Maps e-mailed me my password so I could download the Central American Maps. 

Mary and I use Skype to communicate back and forth. I used my cell phone to show Mary my computer screen so she could help me navigate through the downloading of the maps. Well it worked, but it wasn’t that smooth of an operation. It’s hard to type, keep the phone steady and have Mary reading the directions to me all at the same time. She said she was getting motion sickness from trying to read my screen while the phone was bouncing around. To make a long story short, Mary and I did get the maps loaded into to my GPS. I used the Micro S/D Card that had the United States Maps on it. It had almost 5 gigabytes of free space on it so I thought I’d download the maps to it. Unknown me (not too tech savvy) I overwrote the United States Maps. That will cost me $100 to get them back. But on the bright side I have the Central American maps and I can continue to navigate through Central America with some ease. I’ll still have to keep an eye on Blanche as she’s always looking for the short cut. 

I cleaned up my desk and put all my paperwork back in order. I will again start and finish my preparations to cross the border. The only thing that bothers me is the money changing thing. It’s not a bank teller or an ATM. It’s a bunch guys wanting to change my money or scam me out of money. I retired for the evening with that thought.

In Search of Quetzal - 13 December 2017

13 December 2017 – I ate a hearty breakfast, loaded my bike and departed for the bank. I stopped at two banks Bancomer and Banamex and inquired about purchasing Guatemalan Quetzel. It was a quick no from both banks. So I got back on my motorcycle and left town heading toward the Guatemalan border. I can tell you that Tuxtla Guttierrez is a large town and very modern. Everything was there: McDonalds, Domino’s Pizza, Holiday Inn, Marriot Hotels, Walmart, Sam’s Club, several very large plazas / shopping malls and God know what else I didn’t see. I was on the Autopista and it still took about an hour to get out of town.

Once I got out the city and driving South on Mexican Hwy 190 it was like driving through the South Dakota Black Hills. The pine trees looked the same. Some town I was driving through had a blue Catholic Church. I thought it looked nice and took a picture of it. 

I stopped in another town, Las Margaritas, about 37 miles / 60 Kilometers from the border. I stopped at another Bancomer Bank and asked about Guatemalan Quetzel. Again, the big no. Although the lady said you could purchase Quetzel and gave me a location downtown. Not an address, but a location. Just at that time a gentleman walked up and said “may I help you?” I said I was inquiring about purchasing Quetzel here at the bank. He said “you’ll have to purchase that at the border.” I showed him the location the lady gave me and he told me how to get there. He was a nice guy, spoke good English and was a tourism pilot. He flew tourists over or through some scenic area for a living. I don’t know where though. So, off on another adventure.

I drove in to town per the pilot’s instructions. I was waiting to make a right turn and this guy walks up to me and says he’s a biker and would like me to come into his restaurant to eat. It was 3:30 p.m. and I wanted to purchase Quetzel if it was available. He said he rode a 1200 BMW. I declined his invitation to stop in and eat. I was under time constraints getting to the border. It was mostly mountain driving with switch backs and I did not want drive mountains in the dark. He said the border didn’t have any quality hotels so you might as well stay in town. A tempting offer, but my goal was to be at the border today. I finally had to say, I must leave Sir, shook his hand and left. I almost had to be rude to get away from him. In a different situation I would have taken him up on his invitation to eat with him but today was not the day.

I did find the location of the money changer. Imagine that. I didn’t purchase the Quetzel because of the poor exchange rate. I’m going to the border with no Guatemalan Quetzel and that scares me. I will have to deal with these money changers and I have heard they will swarm on me like bees. 

The last 3 miles / 5 Kilometers was road construction into Ciudad Cuauhtemoc. It would have been horrible if I would have driven that in the dark. I arrived safe and sound and stayed at Hotel La Benediction De Dios. It was a nice hotel and especially looked nice at night with all the Christmas lights. The best thing about it was the Wi-Fi. It was better than some of the more expensive / fancier hotel I have stayed in. You didn’t even need a password to use it. Anna, one of the ladies who works here was quite helpful. I got a couple extra blankets because it does get cold at night. There was only a sheet on the bed when I checked in. A good day all in all. I went to bed.

Preparing to Take The Plunge Into Guatemala - 12 December 2017

12 December 2017 – I got up with the intention of ending up just shy of the Guatemalan border. I decided to eat breakfast thinking the next two days may be a little stressful and I didn’t want to be hungry. While I was eating I got to thinking I might need some Guatemalan currency. So, I asked at the receptionist desk if they knew of a bank where I could purchase Guatemalan Quetzal today. They said there’s only one bank open today and that is Bancomer Bank in the Plaza Cristal. They said it was about 1-1/4 Miles / 2 Kilometers away. I sat down with my cell phone and start going down the road till I found it. It was right next to the Holiday Inn so I knew I could find it. I drove right by. It’s really hard to look for a building or anything when the traffic is flying by you or is stopping in front of you. I hooked a u-turn and went back to take a second look. I found it. It was right next to the Holiday Inn like I saw on Google Maps. 

I parked my bike in the car ramp, not thinking anything about it. Then I noticed all the motorcycles were parked everywhere but in car spaces. I was a little worried that some well-meaning person might vandalize my motorcycle because it was occupying a car space. They are out there. I walked into the Cristal Plaza / Mall and walked around some. I wasn’t seeing a bank but I did see a Security Guard. I asked him if he knew where Bancomer Bank was. He walked me outside and pointed out the location of the bank. I walked by the bank and looked in. The ATM’s were operating but the actual bank was closed. It was a Mexican National Holiday. The Virgin of Guadalupe Day.  Apparently, the Virgin Mary appeared in the year 1531 and instructed the Bishop to build a Cathedral somewhere near Mexico City and he did. So that’s why the bank was closed and it was a national holiday.

As I was walking around the outside of the Cristal Plaza I saw a Grocery Store / Mercado and I went back in. It was a huge grocery store. I asked one of the stockers if she knew where the peanut butter was. She had to ask around and we eventually found it. I got another 1 pound / 462 grams jar of it. I also picked up some more apples. As I was staggering around the store I saw some Christmas fabric I thought Mary would like. That way she could create a Christmas quilt. I texted her some pictures of the fabric and the price. She thought the fabric was pretty and fairly reasonable. I continued walking through the Plaza until I found an exit out. I stopped by the Banamex Bank and purchased some pesos.

I drove back to the hotel and I decided to check out why my headlight has been just being a pain in the butt. It works off and on. Earlier this spring when I was preparing my motorcycle for this trip I installed a heavy duty headlight wiring harness. I’m thinking the wire used in the wiring harness was 16-gage. The reason I installed this wiring harness is I went from a stock 55/60-watt bulb to a 55/100-watt bulb. That 100-watt high beam bulb lights up the highway real nice. If you run the 100-watt bulb with the stock wiring harness you’ll burn the wiring harness out of the motorcycle. Hence the heavier gage wire. The down side of the heavier wire is it not as flexible as the stock wiring harness. With all the shaking while driving these rough and pot holed roads the 3-blade female connector keeps working itself off the bulb. While it’s jiggling around it’s constantly arcing and eroding the connectors. I unhooked the heavy-duty wiring harness, removed the 55/100-watt light bulb and re-installed the 55/60-watt bulb. I then hooked back up the factory wiring harness to the bulb. I made sure all the connections were nice and tight. If I ever repair the heavy duty wiring harness I could substitute the single 16-gauge wire with multiple strands of lighter gauge wire, which would allow the wire to be more flexible. I spent about 3 hours switching those bulbs and wiring harness back to the factory set up. 

Technology Saves The Day - 11 December 2017

11 December 2017 – I needed a shower and food. The restaurant cooked me huevos rancheros and refried beans. Damn that was good. I ate all the tortillas with my refried beans. I was feeling like a human again.

I came back into the room and started emailing  pictures to Mary.  With the weak Wi-Fi, it was taking forever. She suggested I try texting the pictures if the Wi-Fi was bad.  I had to figure out how to transfer the pictures from my camera to my laptop to my cell phone, so I could text her the pictures. I did eventually figure out how to transfer the pictures. I sent all the pictures in less than 30 minutes. I sent them as texts and they just flew out of my computer. If I emailed them it would have taken more than 2 minutes to send each picture.  I decided to take a break after sending the pictures and walked across the street to a wholesale food and clothing store. It was a lot like Sam’s Club in Minnesota except you didn’t have to be a member. I wanted to purchase another jar of peanut butter for my backup food supply. I didn’t find any but I bought some French bread, apples and a couple of Snickers candy bars. I came back to hotel, ate one of the apples and worked on my blog till 12:00 midnight and went to bed.

How Do Say “Cold Cut Combo” in Spanish? - 10 December 2017

10 December 2017 – I got up, loaded my bike, turned in the key and TV remote and left. I will be heading toward the border to a city called Tuxtla Gutierrez. A lot of mountain riding on a road that should be one of Mexico’s better roads. The sun was shining when I left and day looked promising. As soon as I entered the mountains it started misting and getting colder. It got down as cold as 58 degrees / 13C. Man, it was cold. It rattled my eye teeth out. The misting was off and on until I got down to lower elevations. I pulled in to Tuxtla Gutierrez and I’m driving city roads with speed bumps and potholes.

As I was following Hwy 190, I spotted a Subway sandwich place. I hooked a u-turn and drove back to it. This would be something different for a change. I go inside, and oh crap, everything is in Spanish. So I’m trying to decipher it. I find what I’m looking for and order it. Then they start asking me all these questions about what I want on it, cheese, vegetables, dressings, and whether I wanted it toasted. I was overwhelmed. I almost walked out of the place. Miraculously, a high school girl behind me walks up to me and said, what kind of cheese do you want, do want it toasted etc. etc. When it came time to pay for it I asked for two cookies to go with my Subway sandwich. I paid for everything and I gave the 2nd cookie to the girl who interpreted for me. She was quite surprise and asked if she could give me a hug. I said sure. By the time I turned around the family was gone and I ate my sandwich. The sandwich was really good and something a little different for change.

I set out to find a hotel. I found this Auto Hotel. It had a garage with a curtain, just like the other two I stayed in. The perfect place for me. 400 pesos/$20 for 24 hours. I asked the receptionist if they had Wi-Fi and he said no. I told him I needed Wi-Fi and left. I felt bad but I needed Wi-Fi. I traveled over to where I came into town and saw a nice looking hotel. I stopped in and got a room. More expensive but it had Wi-Fi. I came in, unloaded my motorcycle and proceeded to research hotels on the border of Mexico. I found several. God only knows if they’re fit for man or beast. I went to bed.

Two Wives???!!! - 9 December 2017

9 December 2017 – I got up and start getting ready to leave. I am about three days out from the Guatemala border. I think I’m pretty well set for directions to get there. I have Blanche pretty much tuned up and my directions written up. The nearer I get to Guatemala the more mountains I will be driving. It will be pretty much all Autopista driving. As I was loading my motorcycle, the receptionist and one of the house cleaning ladies wanted to have their pictures taken with me. I obliged. They were kind of funny. I spoke with them using my cell phone translator so we really didn’t have any communication problems.

While this was going on I was sending a locator Spot to Mary saying I’m ok. One of the gentlemen spotted the device and went to pick it up. I told him what it was for and he said it was a good idea to let your girlfriend know that you are ok. The two girls from the hotel gave me the thumbs up on that. The man who picked up the Spot had a son upstairs in the hotel who spoke fluent English. He came downstairs and asked me all about my Spot device. I told him what it did and showed him the different locations from day to day. I then asked him what all the music was about last night in the restaurant area and he said, they had a Christmas party for all their client stores that purchase hardware from their warehouse. The warehouse people wanted to show their appreciation and get their customers to purchase more merchandise for the Christmas season. Traditionally that’s when they do most of their business.

There was a guy from Quebec, Canada in the same hotel. He was paraplegic, with his dog and his handicapped equipped vehicle. He drove down from Quebec by himself. I can only imagine his frustrations. I met him the day before and he was trying to locate a Walmart in the area somewhere. He thought the receptionist could help him out. They were struggling with the communications. They were using the cell phone translators and they weren’t working. They were talking in long sentences and believe me those long sentences don’t translate clearly. It seems to me if you talk in short concise sentences you get better translations. Even this is very frustrating when you’re asking simple questions. Anyway, I asked the guy if I could help and he told me he was looking for a Walmart. It just so happened I was looking for something around Mendoza and I was looking at all the different stores and I spotted a Walmart. So I Googled Walmart and two of them popped up. The first Walmart was 18 minutes away and he said he could drive there and get what he wanted. He thanked me and I left. I saw him this morning and asked him if he found what he was looking for.  He said, he was looking for a heater and found one to keep him warm on these cold nights. I was glad he was successful finding his heater.

Anyway, I had my bike loaded and was ready to leave. I turned in my room key and TV remote and left. I stopped at the nearest gas station, filled my gas tank and put some air in my front tire. I was off for the day. I stopped along the way to get something to eat. The lady was having problems getting my order right so she asked someone to translate for her. A guy spoke fluent English. He said it took him 8 months to be able to hold a conversation. He said he worked real hard at it. He told me all the jobs he held in the U.S., from working in restaurants, to working in high end restaurants, shingling, running a shingling crew, construction, to putting on copper roofs. He said he was back in Mexico because his wife was here. He talked all through the time I was eating. The woman who prepared my meal told him she liked me and wanted me to stay in Mexico and be her husband. I told the guy to tell her that I had a girlfriend in the U.S. She said that’s ok. You can have a wife in the U.S. and one in Mexico. I told the guy to tell her I didn’t want to look like a henpecked rooster. They thought that was pretty funny.  I looked at her and blew her a kiss on my way out.

I looked through a few other small stores for Snickers candy bars but couldn’t find. I hope this is not an omen of things to come.  I’m getting kind of addicted to those Snickers.  I stopped for the night 200 Miles / 322 Kilometer down the road. I had Blanche find me a hotel. It cost me $200 pesos ($10). It was another Auto Inn. I drove in and pulled my motorcycle into the garage and closed the curtain. I adjusted the chain and oiled it. I unloaded my bike and took everything upstairs for the night. The hotel had a lot of road traffic noise. That was the only downside of it. I looked over my route for tomorrow and went to bed. I had to be out of the place by 9:00 a.m. 

Helpful Locals - 8 December 2017

8 December 2017 – Yesterday as I was unloading my motorcycle, I was thinking it’s time to perform an oil change on my bike.  I’m only 300 Miles / 483 Kilometer off an oil change. I decided this would be a great opportunity to do it. I Googled motorcycle dealers in Mendoza and came back with 3 hits. You look at Google Maps and see such perfect streets and roads. I have yet to find that as I am driving or looking for any establishment. Initially I thought I was lost, but I accidentally found the place I was looking for. It was a small place. I met Carlos when I arrived and told him I would like to change my oil. I’m not sure who owned the business; it might have been the technician in the shop. But Carlos was good friends with him. This particular business didn’t have any oil that I liked. I showed them my Shell 15W-40 oil I run in my bike. Carlos said, there is no Shell gasoline or oil products in Mexico. So he recommended we go see another friend of his. Carlos led the way on his motorcycle and I followed.

We traveled less than 5/8 of a mile / 1 Kilometer to his friend’s place. Right across the street was a Kawasaki dealership so Carlos and I walked over to see what type of oil they had. Their best oil was Yamaha 20W-40. Perfect. I bought three quarts / liters and we left. We then drove over Carlos’s other friend. He was only a stone’s throw down the street. I drove by not knowing I was going to change oil there. Carlos motioned for me to come back. I got off my motorcycle and I met Julio. Julio owns his owns his own spare parts store. That’s what refacciones means. Through my cell phone translator and Carlos, I’m told to change oil here and Julio will provide me with an oil drain pan and any tools that I need. Carlos had other business to take care of and left. I really appreciated his help.

I pulled out the tools I would need from my bag and set them on Julio’s oil rack. I changed my oil in the street in front Julio’s part store.  I proceeded to start draining the oil under the supervision of Julio. It wasn’t long before a girl showed up with a salad in a plastic box. One for Julio, one for myself, and one for the young woman. I asked if I could complete my oil change first before I would eat. They said that was fine. I hoped I didn’t insult anyone by completing my oil change first. Julio and this young woman ate their salad and I got the oil drained and a new oil filter installed. 
While I was changing oil, there was a constant stream of people passing by the store and asking questions about my motorcycle. I talked with some but mostly Julio did the talking. I cleaned up the mess, put my tools away, and closed up my saddle bags. I then sat down with Julio and we talked about family, his parts store and my travels. 

Carlos stopped by one more time and we talked. He wanted to know if everything was going ok. While he was there we took pictures, and talked some more. Carlos was telling me about his son in Houston, Texas. He left again and Julio and I continued to talk. Julio helped me some with my Spanish, which I appreciated. He recommended a restaurant that I would have like to have stopped at. I never found the restaurant. I was really hungry and could have stood to have eaten something. I located an ATM and purchased some pesos. I then went food shopping at a nearby market and purchased some French bread. I keep the bread in my bags for when I can’t find a restaurant or am too lazy to look for a restaurant.

 I was putting all my goodies into my saddle bags when this young lad walks up gives my motorcycle a real hard look. His 250cc Sport Bike was parked a couple of parking spots down from mine. I knew he wanted to know more about my bike. We talked back and forth about my motorcycle and my travels through our cell phone translators. He was coming across as a pretty smart lad. I asked him what type of work he did. He said he was a student and studying nursing. He said next year he will start studying to be a doctor. We shook hands, took some pictures and parted ways. He introduced himself as Ed something something. It was a real impressive Spanish name. There is no way I can repeat it. He jumped on his motorcycle and was gone.

I finished closing up the saddle bags and left. I staggered around Mendoza making the taxi cabs and buses mad because I didn’t know where I was going. I expected the police get on my case with all my illegal u-turns. There were so many one-way streets it was almost maddening. Blanche was going crazy recalculating. She finally settled down when we got on the correct street back to the hotel. I went back to the hotel and planned my next day travels. I also sampled one fresh loaf of bread. That bread sure tasted good with peanut butter. In the restaurant portion of the hotel there either was a wedding going on or some kind of fiesta. The music was loud and the kids were running around like crazy. The music didn’t fall off until after 10:00 p.m. I guessing everyone was having a good time.