December 29, 2008 GMT


We left Dan and Kim’s place in the North of South Carolina on a very cold morning, it was below zero. Thinking back at the time we spent with them kept us warm. They we very good to us, so helpful and full of humor!
Driving though the South reminded me of ‘Gone with the wind’, a movie that I saw a long, long time ago. I recognized the wooden houses, some on stilts, the cotton fields and the accent (they ‘sing’ when they say ‘Ma-am’). It’s also called here ‘the Bible belt’, never seen so many churches, some have signs with a text in front of them like;
‘NOT ONLY WAL-MART SAVES’ (wal-mart is what Tesco is in Britain or Centra in Holland).

The road, the 221, was a nice rolling one. Lots of people had put up the Christmas decorations and some were sooooo over the top, but the one I liked was a blow up Father Christmas of 2 meters high. Didn’t get one in the sidecar, otherwise I would have been happy as a tornado in a trailer park.

Driving into Florida gave us all types of palm trees; it got warmer, so the butter melted. We were also overheating in our 4 layers of cloths. By this time Andy wasn’t happy with the fuel consumption of the Triumph, it did just 7, 24 miles a liter, so it was drinking like a fish. Luckily the price of fuel is cheaper than in Britain (35 pence a liter)
One night we were camping and next door was a bar. They had a big bonfire going and expected some local musicians. We were almost collapsing from tiredness, but finally
some guys turned up and started to play on guitars. It was so good, they were singing about the country life, loneliness, girls that run away without saying goodbye, the dog that died and everything else that can go wrong in life. There was also a song taking the piss about this 30 year old guy that couldn’t cope with live, because he got rotten spoilt by his red neck mamma. I am glad we didn’t get to bed early.

Following the coast road, the 98, it rained. We saw a lot of damage from the last hurricane that had past 4 years ago, but also a lot of beautiful houses on stilts were rebuild. Many boats and places for seafood. We drove into Alabama (couldn’t stop singing Neil Young’s song about Alabama) and arrived just before dark at Pete and Norma’s place in Lillian, near Pensacola. Andy had met them 8 years ago when he was travelling through North America. They welcomed us very warmly. We spent a week together, they took us everywhere; on tour for site seeing, to shops, bars and together we took part at a big toy run. We started from the local Triumph dealer, named D and D cycles (thanks for your help and support guys!) and had to follow a bike and trailer that was dressed up in Christmas style. Over 1500 bikers showed up, and many were dressed up as Father Christmas. One biker had a duck on a lead that got lots of attention.

The weather was very weird; it was humid and hot or freezing cold. We also had a tornado warning. There was another cold front coming. In normal weather conditions in this time of the year, we could have done the Transam trail, an off road trail, but this weather made it impossible, we only could try to get further south to escape the bitter cold.

We also got post, John and Lynn, the ones who had invited us for Thanksgiving, had sent us a Gremlin Bell. It’s a Guardian Bell, it protects bikes from evil spirits that are responsible for mechanical problems and bad luck along a journey. The constant ringing of the bell drives them insane, so they fall of the bike (and create so potholes!). A Gremlin Bell has twice as much power when it is purchased by a friend or loved one and has given as a gift. And I can tell you, it’s more than wonderful to get a Gremlin Bell from such a nice people.

I made a big apple pie for Norma’s birth day; it took us 3 days to eat it. Pete (still wearing his Sunday cloths) made a part for the bike screen to stop the wind blowing through. Andy painted a map of the America’s on the sidecar. Together we visited in very windy conditions the famous Pensacola beach and we had to run for the enormous waves.
It was very special to be with Pete and Norma, great that they wanted to share so much. So saying ‘Goodbye’ was not easy.

We camped a few times in hard conditions. Luckily Andy is very good at making campfires. Just after we past Houston, we saw a Triumph dealer in Katy, so we stopped. The next thing that happened was that Steve and Gayla, who manage the parts department in the shop, invited us to stay at their home. And that was super, it was not only very cold, they were such a nice people! Steve gave us his handle bar muffs, something you really appreciate in this cold and Gayla cooked for us.

Above San Antonio you find the Hill Country; it’s a nice part of Texas. We stayed for a few nights at the Koyote campsite. It’s very difficult to wild camp in this part of the States, everything is fenced off and all the land belongs to somebody. Too many signs saying ‘keep out’ or ‘posted’.
The scenery was nice, but another cold front drove us South through endless flat areas that were damaged by the last hurricane. The roads were overcrowded because everybody wanted to spend Christmas in Mexico. We ended up camping in the garden of the Texas information centre just before the border and the sound of trucks passing by kept us awake.

At the border crossing into Laredo were hundreds of people lined up, waiting in the boiling sun. To get into Mexico you have to pay a fee and there were only 2 people at the office to deal with it. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon they got some more staff in, but it didn’t really make a difference. Every time somebody had finished the paperwork and could leave the crowed yelled, but there were also some scary moments when people started to get very angry, but it never got totally out of control. It took us only 12! Hours to get our paperwork done, so we camped in the border car park, this was quiet safe.

We drove tired into Mexico and left the toll road after getting enough off being ripped off by paying to much toll. We followed for 3 days the 40, a much more interesting road through dust towns, changed the rear tire (what a pain in the bum) that only had lasted since Pensacola and got lost in the horrendous traffic in Durango. A guy in a BMW shouted ‘follow me’ and guided us to the right road. His name was Jose and he owns 3 Triumphs. We had a drink together and then we continued our journey. Just after Durango we drove into the Sierra Madre Occidental and we were very pleased with the stunning views and whiny roads (called ‘the Devils Spain’). We also met another bike travelling couple, Johan and Charmaine from South Africa. They are on the road for years now. It was so nice of them to stop so we could have a chat and a coke. Hopefully we meet again.

Just before Christmas we arrived in Mazatlan, a town at the west coast and found, after getting stuck in the hectic town traffic, hotel Belmar were we met Mike. He is here on his bike and he is also from Scotland. We had never met before, but we got in contact by the Horizons site. So here we are. We have a room with ocean view; we are sunburned already and can chill out for a while!
Will be continued.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at December 29, 2008 11:24 PM GMT

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