Thursday, May 17, 2007
Monday, May 14, 2007
An Aerial View of Maztlan near where we stayed.
Four Wheels through Mazatlan March 14-18th 2007
The next morning we left Topolobampo and our Polish friend Pietras Remigiusz at the train station and headed south towards Mazatlan. We rode through corn swept vistas controlled by Mansanto Corporation (the nefarious evildoers of crop genetic mutation) for hours before I ran out of gas while riding behind Josh. Needless to say he was pissed off when I finally caught up to him. Earlier we had been contacted through Adventure Rider by someone named Glen who invited us to stay at his place when we passed through Mazatlan. We made sure to give him a call before we came like good kids should.
Glen and Josh giving the thumbs up for readers of NotTheMotorcycleDiaries.com
Glen said that the finger was for AdvRider.com!
He gave us directions thusly: “Go to the Malécon and look for the tallest building. I’m in that one.” So we did. It was a fifteen story condo right on the white sand beach that stretched for 180 degrees. We made our way to the gates and were let in. We parked our bikes by a BMW R1200 GS Adventure with the website www.StrikingViking.net written on it.
We rode the elevator up and found Glen Heggstad waiting for us. He welcomed us to his home and offered us a couple beers which we took him up on even though it was pretty early in the afternoon. Glen had made Mazatlán his home a few years ago after one of his motorcycle trips around the world he realized that it was the only place he wanted to go home to. So he’s been living and working from his condo in-between rides south through America, trips around the world, or talks at various BMW dealerships since they sponsor his travels.
Although I’d heard of Glen Heggstad and had even seen his book when I bought my jacket at Long Beach BMW I wasn’t quite prepared for the man: over six feet high with sandy blond hair, a smattering of tattoos, and the physique of a giant his moniker Striking Viking is entirely appropriate. The youngest member ever to be inducted into the Hell’s Angels, a third degree black belt, and practically self-published his best-selling book about his travels around the world Glen is the definition of an adventure traveler. His book, ‘Two Wheels through Terror’ begins with this passage, “Warriors claim that the battle is won in the preparation,” and boy did he have a battle. On his ride from California down to South America he passed through Columbia and while his was on a desolate stretch of a highway the road was shut down by the Marxist guerrillas and he was taken prisoner by a band of shotgun and machete wielding soldiers. For the next five weeks he was sequestered in the mountains in a small rebel camp. He was forced to run up and down a mountain all day and then interrogated and tortured at night. He was released into the hands of the Red Cross at the end of his ordeal but there’s a lot more in there so read his book! Here’s a video that ABC did soon after his release and article.
The Motos parked on the Malecon in front of the gym.
The first night he took us into his routine of working out at a little gym on the malécon so we rode down there and I decided to work out my legs since they needed some strengthening for the trip. This turned out to be a mistake. I could barely walk for the next four days. But luckily I could relax by the infinity pool and write in between hobbling to and fro.
Glen was working on his new book so it kept him pretty busy so we stayed out of his way or helped him with his new computer in between him showing us pictures of his travel and regaling us with stories from around the world including the interminable days and nights of his imprisonment. He told us of one instance in which he was teaching the younger soldiers (from ten to eighteen…) Jujitsu moves and self-defense. All of the children had put down their rifles or machine-guns and were being guided by Glen in a similar formation as his classes in California when he noticed that they were all unarmed now. He could run over and grab one of the guns and pretty much mow them down and make a run for it. But they were kids. Could he really live with himself killing unarmed children who for all intents were innocent? He couldn’t and so he continued the lesson and endured the nightly beatings and torturing for another few weeks. Ya gotta love kids.
We rode around town with Glen a few times, he on his bright yellow BMW with custom Jesse Luggage saddle bags, and Josh and I on my bike (funny that Josh continuously ridiculed me for getting a BMW yet always chose to ride it rather than his own motorcycle whenever he could) and I was amazed but not surprised at his riding style; very aggressive but in a safe manner that bespoke of his many years wielding his machine through treacherous jungle or urban jungle as is the case in many third world cities. He would push through intersections and practically run a few cars of the road if they weren’t giving him enough space!
Some pics of the Malecon that stretches for miles of Mazatlan.
A great photo if I might say so myself.
After a few days of relaxing and sightseeing around Mazatlán it was time to head south for Sayulita just north of Puerto Vallarta. We rode away from my first ever stay at a condo and headed to the historic downtown for some coffee before we got under way. It turned out to be a festival day and it was getting late so we found a little room and spent the night enjoying the nightlife with some college students we’d met that we ran into again as well as someone who lived at Glen’s condominium. An organization had set up a movie screen on a small street near a bar and a cross-section of Mazatlán society came out to watch ‘Cinema Paradiso’ so we grabbed some beers and joined them. It was the first time Josh had ever seen the film and since it was in Italian with Spanish subtitles Josh was somewhat lost at times. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, I mean street, at the end. We then took a tour of a great little hotel on the plaza with our friend Guy and were given the history of the gazebo (some mayor had replaced the ornate classical metal one with a concrete modernist take on the gazebo which everyone in the city hated, it was then taken to the mayor’s hometown where they hated it but they were stuck with it, Mazatlán then had a new one made to look like the old one but got it all wrong). After the long history lesson we decided to call it a night so that we could make the next day an early one of riding.
The ‘Restored’ Gazebo of Old Town Mazatlan. Very European, no?
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Disheveled and tired we made it back to our apartment in La Paz and I decided it was apropos to partake in the local custom of siesta – an all day siesta. Josh went about some sort of business and it was decided that we should leave the next day, a Sunday, for the mainland via either the ferry to Mazatlan or the more fun to say Topolobampo. It being a Saturday night when I awoke from my siesta I didn’t take too kindly to waking up supremely early and dealing with immigration/customs/and ferry personnel. So I reasoned with my brother and told him I wasn’t leaving the next day (I know that’s not reasoning but that’s how things work with Josh) and he said that he was and that he’d meet me in Mazatlan. We were in accord, at this point we needed a bit of space from each other anyway.
Josefina and Juan were throwing us a going away party that night so we made our way over to their house after Josh had packed up his kit (that’s for all of our British/Kiwi/Aussie reader’s out there). They’d prepared a feast of empanadas, tacos dorados, taquitos, guacamole and salsa, and a celebratory cake. Even more of the family came this time as spouses and cousins and their kids came to meet the gringo part of the family before they left. Everyone was ravenously starving and as soon as the big cardboard box soaked from the grease of the empanadas arrived it was gone in a matter of minutes. Everyone was very happy to have seen us again and made us promise that it wouldn’t be another twenty years before we, or our parents, returned. As the cake was polished off Marisol invited me to go out with her friends to the dance club – I told her I would join her later once my hands were colder (mas mano fria). As the party winded-down Josh and I made our gracious exit and headed home; he for sleep and me for a change of clothes.
I walked the mile to the malécon and the row of bars that included Carlos n’ Charlie’s, The Jungle, and some other third thing in this list*. After a very uncomfortable swing around The Jungle in which it was difficult to move at all let alone dance I found Marisol with her girlfriends in the VIP section under the cover band’s stage. I crossed over the velvet rope and tripped- an excellent entrance if I do say so myself. She was with five or six beautiful girlfriends from school that were muy agradable (very friendly/agreeable). We sat and yelled at the band in between songs – they knew the singer so it wasn’t obnoxious – to play a cover of Radiohead’s I’m a Creep which he didn’t do. So we drank and danced to the tunes that he was choosing – Guns ‘n Roses, U2, some Mexican song that included, “Chinga Los Gringos” (Fuck the Gringos) – until closing time came around and Marisol’s curfew was coming up. But then their friend Juan, the singer, began the opening bars to I’m a Creep and everyone left in the bar started singing along with the unity that only a song that asserts the singers own debased nature, non-belonging, and wish to be something special when in reality he is merely a creep. Very-sing along. As the last bars fade away and Thom Yorke intones, ‘I don’t belong here, I don’t belong here,’ the bouncers nod in agreement and we file past.
The next morning by the time I woke up Joshua had left for the ferry terminal outside of town so I meandered about my daily tasks free from the confines of having anyone to tell me what to do or by when to do it. I spent part of the day walking around the streets near our old house before making my way over to the kindergarten that I went to and hanging onto the fence for a while. It was strange to think that I had been confined in this little rectangular building and the tiny playground replete with tractor tires painted bright colors for a formative year twenty years ago. I didn’t remember the days spent inside so well since Joshua and I would cut school just about every day to go and play in the streets or at the beach playground. So the nostalgia was short but sweet.
I crossed the street to Humberto and Betty’s house for an early supper and some mano fria. We were all sitting at the table on the front porch discussing Joshua and I splitting up for a bit and how he’d fared with the ferry when Marisol came home from school and said, “I just saw Joshua’s motorcycle on the malécon in front of a coffee shop.” So we decided that we’d all hop in a car and go down and surprise him on his ‘ferry trip.’ We piled into the aunt’s Volkswagen Bora with the girls and headed for a cruise down the main street (not unlike Duval Street with the endless supped-up cars driving back and forth all day since they have nothing to do) but the girls weren’t ‘dressed’ for the malécon so they refused to get out of the car lest they be seen by the bevy of boy suitors. So I hopped out of the car to find Josh coming out of the coffee shop with a smile: “It’s Sunday, it’s very hard to do immigration things on a Sunday in Mexico.” I smiled too and we laughed like at the end of a cheesy sitcom.
Monday seemed like a better day to deal with these cosas, things, so we headed back to Casa del Diablo for a bit before saying our goodbyes since we’d be leaving early in the morning. The next day we went looking for the immigration office – harder than it seems – to finally have our passports stamped and receive visas for our stay before heading to the ferry terminal. We found the office and started the proceedings which involved Joshua walking for half an hour to a bank in order to pay the fees, me going to a small tienda a few blocks away to buy the necessary papers to fill out, and asking for our passports to actually be stamped before we were able to race the five miles to the terminal to be able to check-in in time.
Buying the Immigration Papers from a tienda.
Securing Las Motos for the trip across the Sea of Cortez(notice Elmo).
After a very fast and beautiful ride we made it to the terminal in time to see sixteen other motorcycles being readied for the crossing. After a few SNAFU’s like the power going out, we received our Temporary Import of a Vehicle certificates and made our way to buy tickets to either Mazatlán which was going to take eighteen hours or Topolobampo which was more of a straight-shot on a newer ferry and would take seven hours. We chose the one with the better name. After securing the motorcycles in between the other sixteen motorcycles, BMWs incidentally, we made our way to the passenger decks which were seriously opulent. They even had a pretty good fish/chicken taco buffet that was included with the crossing. As we pulled out of the harbor; a large task since this ferry was probably carrying upwards of 250 tractor trailer trucks, we were waved away by a lone seal basking on one of the channel markers.
A Loose Seal named Lucille Wishes us a Bon Voyage.
We made friends with a family that was traveling home in their van to a small village north of Guadalajara as well as befriending a polish guy who was traveling for the first time in his life and had randomly chosen Baja California as his destination but we made sure to avoid the other biker’s since then it would just be talking shop and that’s not usually the most interesting thing to talk about… I taught the family’s youngest son, who was skating around with those shoes with wheels on them, how to count to one hundred, say his ABCs, and tell his mother and father that he now speaks English for a while and Josh was on the deck for a whale of a whale sighting: for more than an hour a whale had been jumping fully out of the water and then ‘sailing’ with one fin out of the water behind the ferry. All I saw were some jellyfish and a lone sea turtle when I went on deck.
The ferry pulled into the pitch black harbor with only the smallest of a sliver of moon surveying the wind whipped bay. I walked out onto one of the decks that housed the rescue boats which were lined up and ready for a sinking and sneaked in between a couple and watched as the deft dance of docking took place. Pangas scurrying from mooring buoys to pilings as lines were thrown to them from the deck and they puttered out to secure them. It was slow motion until all the points met and everyone began to line up at different exit points. Since we were on motorcycles we were told to go first since they put them in the commercial traffic hold so he headed for our line and told the Polish guy that we’d meet him outside and give him a ride to town since it was five miles away. We headed into the container hold and took off all the tie-downs that we’d strapped around them and made our way out to the mainland of Mexico. Josh and I switched bikes since I didn’t want to ride someone else and we met up with the Polish guy to give him a ride to a hostel. We figured that we might as well share a room for the night to keep down on costs.
After a hellish ride on Joshua’s motorcycle that really doesn’t have much by the way of a headlight we made it to a hotel by midnight but there wasn’t any off-street parking which meant; unsafe for motorcycle in big city. So we looked around on foot until we found another around the corner which would allow us to park the two motorcycles in the lobby (a tiny, tiny lobby). We maneuvered them into very tight spots and asked about a taco stand in the vicinity.
Our Motorcycles in the Lobby of the Hotel. (Later in the morning when Josh moved his bike outside Elmo was stolen within minutes off of the back.)
We went and had some vampiros and gorditas with jamaica (haa-my-kah) juice and learned that the Polish Gentleman needed to make the one and only tourist train in Mexico the next morning at the Statione de Ferro Carrils on the outskirts of town. Early in the morning. I decided that this was a job best dealt with by Josh so I was polite at six in the morning when they woke me up to say goodbye and Josh rode him to the train station for the next leg of his journey.
Our Polish friend leaving for his Grand Tour through the French Riviera.
*The one and only reference to the Spongebob Squarepants Movie and the best joke in it.