Thursday, July 16, 2009

7/15/09 Final Days of the Trip, Blazing Across the States and Reflecting Back

Sitting in my parents house in LaPlata , MD and thinking back on all the shit that went down the past 4 months. Did I really do all that stuff? It feels like it happened so long ago, almost dreamlike when I look at the photos. A lifetime of memories and experiences crammed into such a relatively short period of time. I spend a week or so in Texas visiting good friends in Austin, Houston and Dallas. I'm dead tired all the time and just spend a lot of time sleeping and recovering from the physical exertions of 4 months in C.A. In Austin at my friend John's house we spend the evening giving the bike some much needed TLC and it's looking and running smooth as silk. I still have a hard time believing I made it back to the US after the engine had been ripped apart, the piston rings cleaned off and reused, and having the engine being thrown back and gasketed together as a fix. I have only a 4 days or so before I need to be back in NYC to move back into my place while the subletters move out. It's 867 miles to Louisville, KY where my sister has just moved to start her residency in pediatrics. I head out at night to beat the heat and just keep going, going, going. Watch the sun rise and am starting to get sleepy but I slam a Red Bull and it's enough to get me to my sister's place without stopping at a motel. Kentucky is wonderful to me, all clean and neat and stuff with bearable summer temperatures. It's great to see my sister in her new role as Doctor as well, I am very proud of her. After a day of enjoying more AC, good food and relaxing by the pool I ride another 750 miles to NYC. Blaze across Kentucky and enter Ohio. Man, it was just several months ago that I would go to Ohio and she would come and see me as much as possible. As I pass by a couple of hours south of where she lives, I can't help remembering the relationship and wonder if she even lives there anymore. Leave Ohio, enter Pennsylvania. Enter New Jersey at daybreak and I'm only 80 miles from NYC. Home at last. After a couple of days of resettling in my apartment, I can do nothing for a few days but read, watch movies, and venture out of the house twice a day to eat. I'm just too fatigued mentally and physically to do anything else. It's the first time I really have the chance to be alone in a long time with no obligations or deadlines to meet. No logistics to figure out anymore, no packing and unpacking the bike and taking care of mechanical necessities. No wondering where I'm going to end up that night or where I need to be in a day or three. A few days later and I ride down to Maryland which feels like it's just around the corner. I see my family and visit a lot of old friends. And now I'm sitting here writing about the mixed emotions I'm feeling. I am loving the cleanliness and general order of the States. Not to mention the mandatory AC, smooth asphalt on the roads, lack of speed bumps EVERYWHERE, overpasses, credit card acceptance, a language I speak fluently, good quality gasoline, lack of mosquitos and especially all the food and drink that my American ass is just plain used to and hates to do without. That being said, I know I will be back in that other-worldly place and can't wait to re-immerse myself in the unique culture, history, chaos, landscape, and natural beauty of Central America. I'll especially remember all the people I met on this trip, both the locals and travellers. Although this 10, 000 mile motorcycle journey was not my longest, it was definitely the richest. I'll be starting law school in a month or so and I'm sure as I am sitting in class my mind will wander back to the recent memories of this journey and all that has happened. The hardships already seem like just part of the adventure and I'm sure I will be daydreaming about when and how I'll return.

Friday, June 19, 2009

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6/17/09 Driving Through Protesters, "Shortcuts", Bribing Cops and Finally Back in the States! 540 Miles. 17 Hours!

Determined and excited to be getting back to the U.S. I head out of Papantla. 20 miles later after driving through the city of Poza Rica I get stuck in a major traffic jam. Luckily, as a motorcyclist, I maneuver my way in and around everyone, across a bridge, and into the heart of a protest. I have no idea what's going on but it seems to be relatively peaceful with minimal police presence. I drive slowly through the crowd of people who don't really move out of the way, but I pass through with no problems. I head out of the state of Veracruz and into the state of Puebla before I realize after 20 miles that I have gone the wrong way and have to head back into the protest to get back on track. This time shit is a lot tougher with traffic seriously blocked, cops not letting me drive on the opposite side of the road (understandably), and nobody moving at all in this 90 degree heat with my air-cooled bike idling and getting pretty damn hot. I get on some back dirt roads and again eventually get past the crowds 20 minutes later. On my way north to the city of Tampico I decide to divert off of the main highway and take a road which follows what looks like a road which parallels a nice lagoon for most of the way. What ends up happening is the pavement ending after 10 miles and 45 miles of dirt, mud, sand, washed out bridges and rocky washboard road which rattles me and the bike to the core. By far the toughest road I've ever ridden and I'm lucky to make it through without a flat. I reach Tampico and it's 300 miles to the border at Matamoros. As I'm leaving the city a cop waves me over for an obvious shakedown. He tells me some lame shit like motorcycles can't rode in certain lanes and would I like a ticket and a trip to the police station or would I like to pay the fine on the spot to him personally? He doesn't even try to hide the fact that it's bribe-time and asks for 50 bucks. After laughing, I say that I only have enough pesos to get me to the border and pay for gas. In between trying to shake me down he is trying to be my buddy, asking me all sorts of questions about the bike and shit like that. Funny thing is I'm not even mad, it's just all part of the game down here and I know I'm not really gonna give this guy SHIT. We finally agree on a price we can both live with. About 3 bucks. He then pulls over a local biker to show me the way out of town on the road I need to get to. Definitely the most pleasant and nicest shakedown I've been involved in! At this point the sun is going down and I'm on the homestrech. I make great time as the highways are good at this point and mostly free of traffic. I'm thouroughly enjoying the desert landscape and the setting sun and eventually hit the border at Matamoros. The signs are unclear and it takes a while to get to the International Bridge but it closes at midnight and it's now 12:30AM. Luckily there is a 24 hour bridge which I somehow manage to find. I turn in my tourist card, vehicle import permit, and get stamped out of Mexico. Traffic is backed up and I decide not to cut in front of everyone as I'm not sure how it will be recieved by the guards at the border as well as the folks in line and instead turn off the bike, stand in the gridlock, and slowly push my bike over the bridge one car length at a time. I get over to the U.S. side at 1:30AM, stop and reflect for a few minutes on how fortunate I am to have made it back, and pull out the cell which I haven't used for 3 months. I make a call to my folks and let them know I'm back and call a couple of friends. Go to a Whattaburger for a grilled chicken sandwich, AC, and I even use my VISA. I'm getting used to all this pretty quickly including the ease of communication, lack of mosquitos and speed bumps, and general air of order. I get a motel room which is pretty nice, especially having come from some of the places I have been staying at. No roaches, clean, hot and cold water and cable TV. In English! I fiinally get to sleep at 5 in the morning and am relieved at the fact that I'll be with friends in Houston tomorrow enjoying all the creature comforts of home for a few days and finally being able to really relax for the first time in a long while.


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