January 07, 2003 GMT
USA...Carefree Highway

I finally hit the road at the beginning of october, with a weeping petrol tank (27ltr), a bald back tyre and throw over panniers.

Canadian Rockies.JPG

I left in such a rush. The idea came to me in May;i bought the bike (ī97 F650) in June and called it off in september. I finally hit the road at the beginning of october with a weeping petrol tank (27ltr), a bald back tyre and throw over panniers.
The panniers were already melted from the exhaust on one side, after an hour the other had angled into the rear tyre: a matching holed set! Stopped for tent pegs in Cranbrook to use as guards, they worked a treat.
I was happy with my decision to follow Rt 95 through Idaho, no need to cross the Continental Divide with itīs high and possibly snowy passes! Blue skies and warm days into Utah.
My first "mishap" came on the way to downtown Salt Lake City. I got off to look at the map and my foot hooked on the pannier buckle...over she goes!! I wacked the back of my head and the handle bars were very cock-eyed! Itīs always something stupid. I had sore neck and ab. muscles for a few days!
Went to the Tabernacle (amazing acoustics) for a free organ recital, which finished off with the Liberty March- the Monty Python theme. I wish the organist had looked over his shoulder while he played it! Wonder if anyone else pictured him naked!?
BMW of Salt Lake for a rear tyre, an oil filter kit and handle bar straightening! A very friendly and helpfull place...thank you Tarik.
Route 89 was gorgeous; winding through valleys full of firey autumn colours. Stayed the night in a "two bit" motel, the Harley riding owner gave me a deal for cash. I counted 195 flies on the ceiling! A hunterīs special.
Gusting winds battered me through the Navajo Nation.
My intention was to stop in Sedona for a week and order touratech panniers but i didnīt like the feel of it and besides it was threatening to snow! So on to Phoenix. As i rode into the outskirts Gordon Lightfoot came to my mind when i crossed the Carefree Highway......let me slip away on you. I only can remember two lines of this song but i sang them for three weeks.
Camping was going to very expensive and very far out of town so i settled into a motel in Mesa (east Phoenix). A weekly rate made it cheaper than camping and there was a swimming pool.
The Touratech boxes were to be UPS-ed from Seattle to my room in 3 days. In the mean time i went on a shopping spree! First a chain and sprockets- just for that added weight, there was a front tyre for $30! You donīt say no to that. Two books from the $1 bin, film, socks and frappacinos- just the essentials.
I had a little trouble mounting the frames for the boxes. The instructions were in german and although it looked straight forward, there was the curious case of 3 extra washers....the library i went to for free internet use didnīt have Word to print from the T.T site. I went to a translation site, put in a sample and got back something about the "nut mother unscrewing".....?
After a weekend of cold camping in a state park near Nogales i was ready to cross into Mexico!

Posted by Jo-Anne Smith at 01:40 AM GMT
January 10, 2003 GMT
All them nights down in Mexico..

"...a woman alone? - on a moto! - that only makes it worse."....

I crossed into Mexico at the end of october through Nogales. Vehicles had to go 21km past the actual border to be processed. The paperwork only took 10mins but i had to wait in a queque for two hours!! Managed 150km before sunset on such a shitty road.
I did some hard miles to get over to the Pacific, just making over-night stops, until i found a secluded campsite near Mazatlan and relaxed for a few days.
A hurricane had ripped through San Blas and Puerto Vallarta, everyone i spoke to said the road was blocked. It had been 10 days though and i thought the road should be open now. The crews were still clearing some sections but it was passable...you never know ītil you go.
There was a lot of damage close to San Blas and the left side of the road was missing for 2kms. To be honest though, sometimes i couldnīt tell what was hurricane damage and what was normal rubbish!
I woke up in Puerto Vallarta to an earthquake. Five on the scale apparently. I thought i was imagining the bed rocking, but the jacket on the chair back was swaying too.
The coast road is a good ride (once outside of P.V. w/ potholes on every bend). Hardly any traffic and lovely ocean views. The 'down side', of course, are the freaking TOPES!!....killer speed humps that blend in with the road and are rarely signposted.

night of iguana.jpg

Finally cheap camping at Boca Beach, Boca de Iguanas. Palapa covered brick patio and a brick runway for the bike! It turns into an RV village in december, but now was nearly empty.
Thunder and lightening brought the rain; clammy and chilly. It continued all night and until 8:30 next morning. Tried to get dressed, but had to pee so bad, i couldnīt move. In desperation i filled and 8x5 zip bag! Donīt leave home without them. Maybe i could advertise for the company...101 uses.
I abandoned my camp for a night when i was taken in by Alaskans in La Manzanilla. Joanna and Michelle invited me in for breakfast, the best one i had in Mexico.
We walked to a waterfall and there were a lot of spider webs blocking the path. The spiders were 3" long (banana spiders?). As nominated web wacker, i left an unusually large and strong one intact; only to walk straight into it on the way back down!! Blood curdling scream and lots of 'twitching like a fiend'.

camping Mexico.jpg

After three days of good laughs and good food i made my way along the lumpy potholed roads. And those damnable topes are driving me insane.
People are so surprised that i am travelling alone. All through the States it was..." oooh you're so brave". In Mexico it's...."youīre alone? All by yourself; no companion in the toilet?"....Or...."a woman alone? - on a moto! - that only makes it worse".
Then there is the riding gear. When i put on the jacket and pants, the boots and gloves, it looks and feels like getting dressed for toboganning.
Crossing the isthmus and continental divide to Chiapas, i encountered wicked, wicked winds. Day one on the lowland was difficult but not such a big deal. Day two in the mountains was terrifying. The curves became wind tunnels. I was held in place, and in little time it took to gear down i was blown toward the cliff edge. Be brave and breath! My nerves were stretched.
"...all them nights down in Mexico, that's one place i'll never go, in my life again.."
San Cristobal de las Casas was just what i needed. Live Cuban jazz and The 20th November Revolution celebrations.
Adios Mexico.

Posted by Jo-Anne Smith at 12:28 PM GMT
Derrumbes en la via

I drove right by the Mexican migration! Before i knew it the bike was being fumegated at the Guate border.

I drove right by the Mexican migration! Before i knew it the bike was being fumegated at the Guate border. I was in two minds to go back or not. Never say never.... I went back. After seeing the chaos that is La Mesilla, I had a quite lunch to spend up the last clanky pesos in Mexico.
No need for re-spraying. One cheap hour for the paper work and off for an afternoon ride through the mountains. The "chicken" buses sure spew out the black smoke!
One night in Huehue; one night in Panachel. The road out of Pana was quite fun, it twisted up for views over the lake and the volcanoes; and then it narrowed and became a corkscrew of tight, steep hairpins!! yeeha.
In Guatemala City i took a nice hotel in the centre where i could bring the bike through the lobby and down the hall to the laundry area. The cheaper rooms were up on the 3rd floor and the stairs shrunk down to a four foot clearance!
Out to do the sunday Plaza stroll. Around the corner from the hotel I walked up a urine soaked street. The homeless young men had the luxury of double sized foam pads! And they werenīt shy about running over for money.
A few blocks, but a world away, is the Plaza Mayor; filled with families and lovers and tourists. An ice cream van played "Do Your Ears Hang Low" (Joanna and Michelle are laughing right now if no one else is)
Directly to the BMW shop on monday morning. Veronica, the pr woman, spoke english and helped me talk to the mechanic. The bike work shop is in a lock-up a couple of blocks away. Not as swanky as the car workshop, but there were a variety of new and old bikes in for service and the mechanic himself was an older, capable looking man: i had to trust him.
I had been doing adjustments on the chain for the last 2000km through Mexico so put the new one on. The front tyre was desperate. And a 10,000k service.
Veronica gave me a īgoodie bagī- tshirt, cap, pin, pen, sticker and a packing cube. How nice, muchas gracias!
The ride back to the hotel at rush hour, in the growing darkness, was mad. Pushy buses squeezing in; lame little pips from my tooty horn! Filtering through the congestion i wacked a side mirror--ooops! Heard the glass break, that pissed someone off. Lo siento, adios!
After a couple of days i was ready to head out of the City. I took a scenic detour through Jalapa, to get off the CA-9. It soon turned into a hard days work! Construction and gravel led to rocky tracks; then of course the usual Guatemalan landslide zone. Derrumbes en la via! A wrong fork took me down a riverbed of a "road". A farmer set me straight and i had a wicked bouldery hill climb to get back!
After 4 hours on the pegs i had clocked 80kms, with another 40km to Chiquimula; so stopped for the night in San Luis. The family at the hotel came over to the bike when i brought it in the yard. They all patted the boxes, Grandma asked if they were full of food.
I couldīve gone on to the border but stayed a few days in Chiquimula for the swimming pool at Hotel Hernandes.
And that my friends is my week in Guatemala!!
I must tell you about a nightmare i had while camping Mexico:

Before i fell asleep i heard two people pass, their footsteps crunching on the gravel. They mustīve been crunching back and entered my dream.....
I pictured the steps to be coming along both sides of the tent, and then someone unzipping the entrance at my feet. Semi conscience panic set in. I tried so hard to pull myself from a deep deep sleep to no avail. I felt myself siting up and snarling and growling like a guard dog to scare off the intruders; but i know i was still lying down "sleeping". My noises woke me up and scared me to do a silent little scream. I started laughing when i realized it was the walkers, still crunching by; what they mustīve heard coming from my tent!!!

I put my boot beside me ready to wack anything that entered and went back to sleep!

Posted by Jo-Anne Smith at 12:38 PM GMT

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