August 04, 2006 GMT
Guanajuato to Pie de la Cuesta

"The Bar Mas Bohemia"

7-31-06 start 30,120 end 30,332

Last night I went to a bar called La Musa, right around the corner from where I was staying. "The Bar Mas Bohemia" People with dreadlocks and t shirts that said "without justice there is no peace" and things like that. In spanish, of course. They had two folk singers, one of which was a great guitar player. He played a nylon stringed acoustic guitar that had a really smooth sound, and the room had great acoustics. Unfortunately, I could only catch the odd word here and there, because it was all in Spanish.
I wanted to check out San Miguel de Allende, but didn't want to make a whole day out of it, since I just took a day off in Guanajuato. I rode the hundred miles or so to SMdA and parked the bike near the square. I walked around the town for an hour or so and took pictures. San Miguel is like the Jackson Wyoming of Mexico, which I knew, but wanted to see for myself. It has Dunkin Donuts and Remax real estate, and US plates on a lot of the Jeeps and Land Rovers parked around town. None of this makes it a bad place, like most of these kind of places it its a beautiful location, which is what attracted people in the first place, and that is still there. The architechture is similar to Guanajuato, except for the big church in town, that is quite different from anything I have seen in Mexico. It's just that it starts to become a cartoon of itself when enough people like me go there.
Got back on the road, and really went through a lot of different climate zones. What they call the Central Highlands, where I've been for most of the last week has about the most perfect climate you could imagine. For instance in Guanajuato, I didn't see any evidence of heat or AC in any of the buildings there, except the occasional fireplace. It gets cool enough at night that you want a thick blanket, and warms into the 80's in the afternoon. And it doesn't vary much during the year. This country is pretty dry though, and the trees are just scrubby little things. On the way south, I crossed in to the state of Michoacan and the country got a lot greener. Not jungle but very lush, with the corn growing 6 or 7 feet high, instead of the puny stuff you see in northern Mexico. I'm starting to see what I think of as a very Central American land form. There are these hills with very steep sides, and rounded at the top, kind of bullet shaped. I assume they are lava domes, but I'm not enough of a geologist to know for sure. I climbed up and into a mountain range and was in pine forest that looked like something you would see in Washington state or somewhere.
The dogs seem more agressive here than further north. The northern dogs would seldom bother to raise their heads to look at me, where here, I can see them crouching for a good running start at me from far away. My theory is it is hotter in the desert north, where in the mountains it is cooler so the dogs have more energy. I got surprised by a tope (speed bump) for the first time this trip. A dog was chasing me, and I was playing the game where you go just fast enough so he thinks he might catch you, and you can run them till they about drop. Well I was watching the dog in my mirror and not the road when I hit a whopper of a tope at the speed of a fast dog. My knees about hit the handlebars, but I hung on to it. Serves me right, I guess.
Found a really nice motel for 165 pesos, in a town called Tuxpan, except that it is on a big hill and trucks go by using the Jake brake. Speaking of money, I have spent the equivalent of $320 dollars in the 8 days since I crossed the border, or $40 per day. I gave myself a budget of $400 a week average when I started planning this trip, but hoped to spend 2/3 of that, and that is right where I'm at. The other 1/3 will probably be consumed by unexpected expenses and motorcycle stuff.
On the way here, it kept occuring to my how many big towns there are in Mexico. i went through one caled Celaya, and it just went on for miles. It had a Home Depot, Sam's Club, and McDonalds. Ok, I have to admit it, I went to the Mcd's for lunch. It was just like an American one, and advertised wireless internet access, but then just to keep me on my toes, there was no soap or TP in the bathroom, and the electric hand dryer didn't work. What's up with Mexican bathrooms anyway? When I started taking motorcycle trips here a decade ago, you would go into a PEMEX gas station bathroom an there would be turds piled up to the toilet rim, and forget about TP. Now the PEMEX's look like 7-11's but still no TP. I guess that's just a sensitve subject with me.

8-1-06 start 30,332 end 30,565

Today I was navigationally challenged for the first time this trip. I wanted to take a road that went southwest, because it looked like it went through the most mountainous terrain. Fine, except I couldn't find the turnoff. I asked directions to the town of Melchor Ocampo, which was on the road I wanted, and when I followed them I knew I was going the wrong way. I stopped and asked someone else, and they told me the same thing, so I thought I was wrong and went ahead. Turns out there is another town called just Ocampo that was about 50 miles in the wrong direction. Well, how was I supposed to know there were 2 of them? Besides, I asked for the right one. Whatever. I know, get a GPS. So after some more backtracking I got a road going the general direction I wanted. The Ecuadoran guys I met in guanajuato said that Mexico was the hardest country for them to navigate in too, due to the lack of road signs. If native spanish speakers have trouble, I don't feel too bad. There are vey few numbered roads, and if you see a road sign with a highway number, it might mean that is the road, it might mean this road leads to the numbered road, or it might be there for NO FREAKING REASON. And while I'm on the subject ITMB maps SUCK. They show highways on the wrong side of rivers, half the towns aren't shown, and the code to tell you whether a road is paved, gravel, etc., is not reliable. i could have bought a Mexican road atlas in San Miguel for $20, but I'm not sure it is any better and it was to big to lug around anyway.
So even with al that, I still got to Taxco (TASS-ko) at a reasonable hour,which is where I wanted to go. This is the last on my mining town tour. This place is a silver town, and built more vertically than guanajuato, even though I didn't think that was possible. I don't know how anyone keeps a clutch in their car on these hills. This appears to be a town full of Mexican tourists, I don't think I have seen an obvious gringo since I have been here. After finding a hotel, and arrainging to have my clothes washed. Now let's stop there. What is the deal with laundry here anyway? I think I have only seen one coin op laundry in al the time I have spent in Mexico, and that was at a KOA campgound in Creel. You have to take your clothes to full service laundry to get them washed. Naturally IF you can find one, then you have to hope they actually have them ready when they say they will. Some entreprenuer could make a bundle with a chain of laundromats down here. The hotel people directed me to some woman in the neighborhood who washes clothes, who will probably have her kids beat them on a rock in the river or something. And I won't be able to get going in the morning until they are ready.
Anyway, this town strikes me as a low rent Guanajuato in looks, but without the international bohemian culture. There are some real nice silver jewelry galleries, which is what the town is known for. When I rode into town, I saw a Ducati Multistrada parked outside a restaraunt, so I went back there to see if it was still there. It was, and I went inside to see who owned it. The guy at the counter said it was not his. I'm pretty sure what he said was the owner of the restaraunt owned the bike and just left it parked there to attact attention. It worked on me. Killer tacos al pastor. So, i would call Taxco a tourist trap, albeit a Mexican tourist trap, that has nearly American prices with Mexican quality and sevice level. Not high on my must see Mexico list.

8-2-06 start 30,565 end 30,735

Acapulco is big. I had no idea it was so big, I looked it up and it is like 800,000 people. I got lost but first I better back up a little.
If you recall, I had taken my clothes to be washed in Taxco, and of course they weren't ready the next morning, so I didn't leave town till noon. I started south on the free road, and went about halfway to Acapulco, but after the billionth tope, I relented and took the cuota, or toll road. Besides, the poor KLR had been running around on 40 mph mountain roads for a week or so, and I thought it would be good to run 75 for awhile and clean it out. At least that was my excuse.
Taxco is in the mountains, and I was going to the coast, and the road just seemed to descend forever. Which brings me to another point, why have a toll both at the bottom of a huge hill? A loaded semi must use of most of its' brakes stopping there. Now you can do a lot of things cheap in Mexico, but drive on a toll road isnn't one of them. I cost me 95 pesos to get on the road, I asked the attendant, "Mas cuotas antes Acapulco?". Which I'm pretty sure is "more tolls before Acapulco?". He said "No, no mas". Lying bastard, I got nailed for another 80 some pesos before I got there. So I had done some research, and knew I wanted to go to a little town along the coast, north of Acapulco, called Pie de la Cuesta. However, I failed to reseach Acapulco. I thought I would just go to the ocean, turn right, and pretty soon I would be there. No way, Jose. Suffice to say, I got lost, it was hot, and I wasn't having fun. After getting directions from several people, and triangulating the results, I finally got there though.
Pie de la Cuesta is a peninsula that sticks out a couple miles or so into the ocean. There are a string of small hotels here, but it's off the highway, and way off the Acapulco scene. It's almost like a little piece of Belize, here on the Mexican coast, only without people trying to sell you drugs. Muy tranquilo. Scored a room for 2 nights at a real nice little beach resort, probably 30 rooms here. Roxana, the owner of this place is obviously part black in heritage, and there is a VW beetle with speakers on top playing Reggae music advertising something. $22 a night, not to shabby, right on the ocean side of the peninsula. Normally I'm not afraid to swim in the ocean, but the waves are pretty fierce looking here, so I doubt if I'll go in far.
Acapulco has a lot of hotels that look like they are probably from the Rat Pack era, 50's or so. Think Miami Beach, gone to seed. Miami Beach is maybe a little older, but you get the idea. Kind of run down looking from the outside, but if I have learned anyhting, it's you can't judge a Mexican hotel by the outside. It might be nice inside, it might not. I didn't go through the high zoot area, so I didn't see how the jet setters do it here.
Being back in the lowlands means there are insects again. I haven't seen a mosquito yet, but the flies are bad. I bought a head net, but it makes me look like subcomandante Marcos or somebody, so it would have to be real bad before I would wear it. I would probably get shot as a Zapatista or something. I am taking my cloroquine, but he best thing is to not get bit.

Posted by Andy Tiegs at August 04, 2006 01:13 AM GMT

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