December 29, 2001 GMT
Mexico and Guatemala - getting underway


Ready to ride - larger image

Frank Tabor, Kevin Naser, Dale Thornton - ready to ride

12/21/01 - I left Omaha NE with Frank and Kevin at 9 a.m.; temperature 29 degrees. Kevin Naser was traveling with us for just the first part of our journey through Mexico and Guatemala.

Dale Thornton with his KLR 650

12/25 We left on Friday, December 21st and we scooted along because we were concerned about beating the cold front and snow due to arrive Saturday, the 22nd. When I talked to Kath (wife), a few days later, she said we barely made it out of town...rain Friday night turned to snow on Saturday; winds picked up Saturday p.m.

Frank says that I am disorganized - ‘I don’t get his point’ - but I did forget to bring my writing pad, and somehow I’ve lost my pink registration for my MC; hope I won’t need it.

It was great talking to Kath, she sounded so perky and wonderful. I really miss her every quiet moment.

Tuesday p.m. about 2 or 3, I almost met my ‘waterloo’; got brushed by a car doing probably 100 mph and went down. I feel blessed that I escaped.

Frank, Kevin, and I were traveling on the right shoulder of a 4 lane interstate in Southern Mexico, wanting to get turned around to go South; Frank went across first, then Kevin, I looked back to see if it was clear for me go. There was a bank of cars coming at me about ¼ mile back so I knew I had time to get across safely. I traversed across 3 lanes and was about to enter the 4th lane when I was struck a mighty blow on my left. It didn’t hurt, it was just a solid impact. I awoke on the shoulder with Kevin talking to me. I said, “I’m alright.”

My motorcycle was still on the highway on its side. Some people were trying to get it up and out of harms way. A young man kept saying, “I’m with the Red Cross; I have a medical van with me, do you want anything?” “Are you OK?”

I was still sitting on the roadside, trying to think what had happened. After a couple of minutes, I think...I did get up and went immediately to my side pack to get some ibuprophen, took 2 and said, “lets go.”

Later at a roadside restaurant, Frank and Kevin said a red car sped away from the scene doing at least 100 miles an hour. Kevin said that when he raced toward me, he was horrified to see me face down, and what appeared to be blood all over my face, but it was just that the sun was shining through my sunglasses to make it look like blood. My face was bloody, but nothing serious.

The damage was: very skinned up side panels, shredded side packs and panniers, broken windshield, banged up knee, and some road rash. Not only was I in some mild pain, but now had to deal with riding without a windshield, which made me have to stiffen my neck to the wind, and of course, achieved a sore neck at days end, making it more difficult to get myself to sleep.

Repair job by the side of the road

12/27 Great ride again today, spent much time on our tire edges, about 5 solid hours of twisties & switchbacks. It was so smooth and exhilarating that I was saying to myself ‘I’m so glad to be able to do this, and I feel thrilled to be going south, south, south.’

12/28 - 6 p.m. Great dinner last night, showered again, shaved, and shaved my head. Temp outside about 75 degrees. Slept wonderfully with overhead fan all night (dried all our clothes on the clothesline Frank rigged). We plan to get to Esquintla, Guatemala today. We’re a little frustrated with our charge cards, can get $ only 1 of 4 cards - oh well. Frank finally talked to Sandy last night (talked a long time), meanwhile I met and visited with ‘Rigo’ from Idaho Falls, ID - a potato patch worker down here to see family for 2 months, (he was very well dressed and much gold in his mouth) .. hmmm. Also ran into international couple, Bill from Spain and Dedro from Sweden.

12/28 I’m in a lot of pain tonight (in Esquintla, Guatemala). Bumped a VW on the rear bumper and went down hard (details later).

Getting across the border into Guatemala was lengthy, and frustrating. We got sent back 30 miles to get a stamp on our paper... unbelievable that the needed stamp wouldn’t be right there for travelers. - It’s an insult! I watched the bikes while Frank negotiated for 2 hours.

Anyway, it put us in position to have to drive 120 miles at night to Esquintla, worst ride of my life, 3 hours of torture; my mask was fouled by insects so had to leave it up, which fouled my glasses. There was constant awful traffic with terrible glaring lights, cane trucks, 5 mph almost every hill. Then I met a man walking towards me in the middle of my lane. I clipped him with my mirror at 55 mph and almost went down again. I’m really glad to get to Esquintla - great room, shower & dinner.

Tomorrow will be a better day. Thought we might meet up with Kevin at the ‘Texas’ Hotel, but no.

Thought a lot about my Kath today - hope she’s doing well on the road to Tennessee. I’m anxious to talk with her again on the 31st.

12/29 - Saturday Woke this a.m. (6:00) feeling wonderful and relieved to have slept, except for a blast of loud music about midnight for 3 songs - amazingly rude, it was thunderous, Frank said he didn’t hear it. We had our typical breakfast of oatmeal & coffee, heavy on the powdered cream...and everyone was mesmerized by Frank’s ‘whisper light’ stove.

People would gather around us while we cooked and while we ate.

12/29 - 12:00 p.m. Traveling the highway thru this jungle, the road is lined here and there with big stones painted white on our side; interesting and pleasant feeling.

My bike switched to reserve at 235 miles as I was passing a truck. Been about 2 hours now (at the border again), trying to get out of Guatemala and into El Salvador. Frank keeps coming back to the bikes to get $ for more ‘copies’. We’ve been following a surprisingly pleasant schedule of eating... oatmeal pack & coffee for breakfast, and late evening dinner.

Frank - making oatmeal

Yesterday, while waiting for Frank (at the border), I was approached by a skinny, dirty lady with child (guess about 8 or 10 months old - crawling). She came to me, I figured out, because she observed my attempting to put my medicine pack back in a zippered pocket. She sat the baby down by me and the baby started crying loudly and clawing at the pocket while mother spoke frantically. I went to my trunk, un-bungeed it and pulled out some crackers (baby still crying), she bit open one end of packet and gave the baby a cracker... what a scene... as she walked away.

Within 5 min, grown men and others came to me requesting, ‘a coo-kee, me hombre’.

It’s been a couple hours since I saw Frank (in border check office), very ‘calor’ (hot). I’m a sweaty mess, can’t wait to hit the open road. Finally, we’re off at 2:00.

El Salvador - people were on the road this a.m. picking up sugar cane stalks that were dropped in the night by trucks. Lots of animals on the road - pigs, lots of Brahma’s, chicken, women and young girls with loads on their heads. Most of the road was wonderful, winding down the seacoast.

12/29/01- my crash.
This wasn’t a good day. We were doing our normal thing, traveling the curved highways of Nicaragua, about 50 or 60 miles per hour, Frank leading. We were both taking chances, …passing with questionable circumstances, and getting away with it, (like passing on hills and around curves). It was a long slow curve to the left, maybe a dozen cars to pass. Frank went and I followed, .. prepared to dive back into the right lane if something was coming. Well, something was coming, …a bus, blowing his deep sounding horn. No problem, I’ll just move over to the right here between these 2 cars, and to my surprise and horror, that 15 foot gap that was there just closed, as the car beside me moved up; …no room for me.

The bus was now 25 feet in front of me, coming fast, and still blowing his horn. What a terrifying moment. My choice was to stay in the bus lane and be smashed, or move over anyway, where there was no room. Of course, I moved over, gently bumping the car next to me, and those of you who ride bikes or motos know what happens then. You go down hard, and I did. I remember hitting the pavement, hard on my knee, and skidding on my face, (thank God for my helmet). I skidded off the concrete and into the ditch, the weeds and dirt were much more hospitable. I jumped up quickly, in the middle of the great traffic jam I caused, and with help from others, up righted my bike.

I couldn’t walk now without limping. There was a very sharp pain in my knee. I didn’t want to look at it. Frank and I drove up a ways, where there was a pull off, and I tried to walk off the pain. No way! So we continued our journey; …Frank mentioned he thought I was a tough SOB, though he didn’t say anything about how smart I was.

What I learned from this: the person riding the motorcycle ahead of me has a different set of conditions to make his decision to pass or not to pass, and I can’t do what he does, because my timing will always be different. So I made a vow to me and to my sweet wife, that I am solely responsible for my safety and therefore I will only pass when I am certain it’s safe for me, …and to hell with any other thoughts. Don’t pass or take chances to keep up just because someone else does it.

We stopped (one of our rare instances) for a light lunch by the sea. I took Frank’s picture. Tonight we stopped in Zacatecoluca. Hotel was great with a pool - we indulged -- $20.38 - almost cheaper than camping.

Posted by Dale Thornton at 12:00 AM GMT

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